Even when equipped with compressed-air bottles and diving regulators, humans reach their limits very quickly under water. In contrast, unmanned submarine vehicles that are connected by cable to the control center permit long and deep dives. Today remote-controlled diving robots are used for research, inspection and maintenance work.
The torpedo-shaped underwater robot will be able to dive down to 6,000 meters. (© Fraunhofer AST)
The possible applications of this technology are limited, however, by the length of the cable and the instinct of the navigator. No wonder that researchers are working on autonomous underwater robots which orient themselves under water and carry out jobs without any help from humans.
In the meantime, there are AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) which collect data independently or take samples before they return to the starting points. “For the time being, the technology is too expensive to carry out routine work, such as inspections of bulkheads, dams or ships’ bellies,” explains Dr. Thomas Rauschenbach, Director of the Application Center System Technology AST Ilmenau, Germany at the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB. This may change soon. Together with the researchers at four Fraunhofer Institutes, Rauschenbach’s team is presently working on a generation of autonomous underwater robots which will be smaller, more robust and cheaper than the previous models. The AUVs shall be able to find their bearings in clear mountain reservoirs equally well as in turbid harbor water. They will be suitable for work on the floor of the deep sea as well as for inspections of shallow concrete bases that offshore wind power station have been mounted on.
The engineers from Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation in Karlsruhe, Germany are working on the “eyes” for underwater robots. Optical perception is based on a special exposure and analysis technology which even permits orientation in turbid water as well. First of all, it determines the distance to the object, and then the camera emits a laser impulse which is reflected by the object, such as a wall. Microseconds before the reflected light flash arrives, the camera opens the aperture and the sensors capture the incident light pulses. At the Ilmenau branch of the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation, Rauschenbach‘s team is developing the “brain“ of the robot: a control program that keeps the AUV on course in currents such as at a certain distance to the wall that is to be examined.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT in St. Ingbert provides the silicone encapsulation for the pressure-tolerant construction of electronic circuits as well as the “ears” of the new robot: ultrasound sensors permit the inspection of objects. Contrary to the previously conventional sonar technology, researchers are now using high-frequency sound waves which are reflected by the obstacles and registered by the sensor. The powerful but lightweight lithium batteries of the Fraunhofer ISIT in Itzehoe that supply the AUV with energy are encapsulated by silicone. A special energy management system that researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen, Germany have developed saves power and ensures that the data are saved in emergencies before the robot runs out of energy and has to surface.
A torpedo-shaped prototype two meters long that is equipped with eyes, ears, a brain, a motor and batteries will go on its maiden voyage this year in a new tank in Ilmenau. The tank is only three meters deep, but “that’s enough to test the decisive functions,“ affirms Dr. Rauschenbach. In autumn 2011, the autonomous diving robot will put to sea for the first time from the research vessel POSEIDON: Several dives up to a depth of 6,000 meters have been planned.
Dr.-Ing. Thomas Rauschenbach | EurekAlert!
Monitoring lava lake levels in Congo volcano
16.05.2018 | Seismological Society of America
Ice stream draining Greenland Ice Sheet sensitive to changes over past 45,000 years
14.05.2018 | Oregon State University
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.
Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
22.05.2018 | Life Sciences
22.05.2018 | Life Sciences
22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News