Car-Sized Sea Rover Sinks to a Depth of 20,000 Ft, Consumes No More Power Than an iPhone

Almost 20,000 ft (6,000 m) beneath the surface of the ocean, a high-tech mobile laboratory the size of a car treads over the ocean floor, collecting important data for humanity.
Benthic Rover II  deep sea robot 6 photos
Photo: MBARI/YouTube
Benthic Rover IIBenthic Rover IIBenthic Rover IIBenthic Rover IIBenthic Rover II
The depths of the sea hide a completely new world we still know very little about, even though it plays a crucial role in our planet’s climate and its carbon cycle. It is not an easy task trying to unveil all its mysteries, with lots of hindrances getting in researchers’ way, such as the extreme hydrostatic pressure, or the corrosiveness of seawater. But scientists are making important progress thanks to the Benthic Rover II.

Developed by engineers at the MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) in California, the robot is the size of a small car, measuring 8.5 ft (2.6 m) in length, 5.6 ft (1.7 m) in width, and 4.9 ft (1.5 m) in height. This bot is made of corrosion-resistant titanium, plastic, and pressure-resistant syntactic foam and is equipped with rubber tracks. It crawls on the seafloor, being able to be deployed up to 19,700 ft (6,000 m) deep.

It took a lot of work to make the solid, autonomous machine not only in terms of hardware but also software. According to Paul McGill, MBARI Electrical Engineer, the Benthic Rover II comes with a computer control system and software reliable enough to run for a year without crashing, as there’s no one down there to be able to press a reset button. The electronics in the robot also consume very little power (an average of two watts), about as same as an iPhone, with the batteries carried for it being calculated to last for an entire year as well.

Scientists deploy the robot from MBARI’s vessel Western Flyer, lowering the machine and then leaving it in a free-fall until it reaches the ocean’s floor. The rover uses its sensors to detect the most favorable currents to help it move and reach the research site it aims for. It is equipped with cameras on the front and transparent respirometer chambers, which allow it to take photos of its surroundings, to measure fluorescence, and the oxygen consumption of the organisms living down there. Once it collects all the data it needs to in one spot, it then moves on to another site, to take more samples.

The Benthic Rover II provides valuable data on short-term and long-term changes in the deep sea, modifications that are oftentimes missed by other researchers. Understanding the carbon cycle is crucial to us, especially considering the changing climate, as oceans absorb more than 25 percent of all the excess carbon dioxide we produce by burning fossil fuels and so on.

If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram Twitter
About the author: Cristina Mircea
Cristina Mircea profile photo

Cristina’s always found writing more comfortable to do than speaking, which is why she chose print over broadcast media in college. When she’s not typing, she also loves riding non-motorized two-wheelers, going on hikes with her dog, and rocking her electric guitars.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories