Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Students Build Submarine to Track Octopuses

20.09.2004


Marine biologists want to find out more about the Giant Pacific Octopus, but this elusive creature doesn’t willingly reveal its secrets.

Divers can follow the octopus for short periods, but what’s really needed is an undersea robot that will wait patiently outside the creature’s den, ready to shadow its every move. UA engineering undergrads, in collaboration with students from two other universities, are building a mini-sub to answer this need. In July, they took a prototype to Alaska for testing. Appropriately named Shadow III (and painted a bright yellow that belies its sleuthy assignment) the mini-sub includes a video camera and hydrophones (sonar mikes) to track its prey.

Marine biologists, directed by Professor David Scheel at Alaska Pacific University, will use the sub to track octopuses. Meanwhile, undergrads at Colorado School of Mines are developing the hydrophones under the direction of Tyrone Vincent, an associate professor of electrical engineering. The hydrophones are set up to create bi-aural hearing that will allow researchers to determine the direction from which a sound originates.



During the July test, Shadow III completed ten dives in Prince William Sound, with a communications cable linking it to a mother boat on the surface. Divers checked it for leaks, while UA Professor Emeritus Tom Vincent and UA Mechanical Engineering senior Patrick Haley tested its robotic vision, motors and internal computer. Along the way, it encountered and filmed a Giant Pacific Octopus.

Tests included both: Fun and Frustration

"There were some fun moments and some frustrating ones during the testing," UA’s Vincent said. "We never thought we would have to take the dome off and expose the computer parts to salt air, but, of course, we immediately blew some fuses and had to remove the dome. So we had all this moist, salty air getting into everything." Lesson learned. Students will repackage all the electronics inside the sub to protect it from salt air when Shadow inevitably has to be adjusted on-site.

Repackaging the computer parts will be the latest in a long list of modifications and redesigns that began with Shadow I in 1998. Shadow has become an annual senior design project in UA’s Mechanical Engineering Department, and is entirely designed and built by undergraduates, with the exception of some computer programming done by a graduate student a couple of years ago.

The project received NSF funding in 2000 and has made great progress since then. Vincent anticipates that it will be ready to track octopuses next year. Before that happens, this year’s student design team will build a wireless communications system to free Shadow from the mother boat. Currently the sub and a computer on the mother boat are linked by a 100-foot-long coaxial cable. "We want to get rid of that tether from the boat and have it come to the surface at a buoy," Vincent said. "Then there will be a wireless link between the buoy and the boat."

The team also will modify Shadow’s buoyancy system. Water flows into a ballast ring that circles the center of the sub. The amount of water that it takes on determines the sub’s buoyancy, allowing it to submerge to any depth. Compressed air tanks on the sides of the sub blow this water out to bring Shadow to the surface. "Right now the buoyancy system is under manual control, but we hope to have it under automatic control next time," Vincent said. "We’ll just type in the depth we want on the computer and Shadow will automatically submerge to that depth."

SUB will be operational next year

Although the submarine will begin shadowing octopuses next year, Vincent has plenty of ideas to keep senior design teams busy for a long time. "The way it is now, we’ll still be on the surface watching images from Shadow’s video camera and waiting for something to happen," Vincent said. "We’ll manually control the video camera. But farther in the future we hope to make it totally autonomous."

In autonomous mode, the submarine would operate on its own, following an octopus using its hydrophone sensors. It would decide when to turn on its video camera, transmitting video to a remote receiver. "This would require the submarine to know something about the topography of the ocean bottom in its area so it wouldn’t run into a big rock or other obstacle while following the octopus," Vincent said.

The advantage of fully autonomous tracking is that octopuses spend a lot of time in their dens vegging out, which is pretty boring for researchers. Instead of waiting for hours on the surface, biologists could set up the robot to wait quietly for an octopus to emerge from its den. Then the submarine could become their eyes and ears underwater, recording the octopus’ movements for later retrieval. With that goal in mind, Vincent figures there’s plenty of engineering work to keep senior design teams occupied for several years to come.

| newswise
Further information:
http://www.u.arizona.edu
http://marine.alaskapacific.edu/octopus/
http://www.npca.org/marine_and_coastal/marine_wildlife/octopus.asp

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Another piece of Ebola virus puzzle identified
17.01.2019 | Texas Biomedical Research Institute

nachricht New scale for electronegativity rewrites the chemistry textbook
17.01.2019 | Chalmers University of Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Ultra ultrasound to transform new tech

World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles

The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.

Im Focus: Flying Optical Cats for Quantum Communication

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.

In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

Im Focus: Elucidating the Atomic Mechanism of Superlubricity

The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...

Im Focus: Mission completed – EU partners successfully test new technologies for space robots in Morocco

Just in time for Christmas, a Mars-analogue mission in Morocco, coordinated by the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) as part of the SRC project FACILITATORS, has been successfully completed. SRC, the Strategic Research Cluster on Space Robotics Technologies, is a program of the European Union to support research and development in space technologies. From mid-November to mid-December 2018, a team of more than 30 scientists from 11 countries tested technologies for future exploration of Mars and Moon in the desert of the Maghreb state.

Close to the border with Algeria, the Erfoud region in Morocco – known to tourists for its impressive sand dunes – offered ideal conditions for the four-week...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new twist on a mesmerizing story

17.01.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Brilliant glow of paint-on semiconductors comes from ornate quantum physics

17.01.2019 | Materials Sciences

Drones shown to make traffic crash site assessments safer, faster and more accurate

17.01.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>