marine-robotics

Marine Robotics

Is this the future that brings new opportunities in the marine sector for underwater exploration activities?

Mankind has been able to set foot on the moon, land rovers on Mars, and discover the existence of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Yet, our oceans remain an enigma to us. Oceans cover about three-fourths of the earth’s surface and are responsible for life-sustaining activities like regulating global climate and the supply of food and oxygen. They even provide employment and alternative sources of energy, and generate revenue for the scores of people that live along its shores. Some scientists argue that it is a herculean task to send people to the bottom of the ocean and then into space. The intense pressures of about 15 pounds per square inch on our bodies in the deepest parts of the ocean make it an extremely difficult environment to explore. Since we can’t protect what we don’t know, less than 10% of the world’s oceans are designated as marine protected areas (MPAs). In order to study the unmapped terrains and tap into their expansive resources, we turn to modern technology such as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Owing to such growing concern, Research Nester analyzes if the adoption of marine robots can actually aid in exploring the deep oceans.

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Challenges of Marine Exploration

As is the case with space exploration, the oceans pose their own set of challenges to the advancement of marine robotics.

Some of them are -
  • High pressures and low temperatures in the darkest depths of the ocean necessitate the design of water-tight containers for marine power systems and equipment.
  • The robots need to be equipped with proper energy-efficient power supply systems and alternative technologies such as fuel cells, solar panels, etc. to power long-distance missions.
  • Communication devices need to be reliable as there will be communication losses underwater.
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Present and Future Innovations and

Applications of Marine Robotics

Extensive research and development in the emerging field of marine robotics has led to their use in multiple domains such as-

  • Ocean Cleanup Marine debris contaminates water and threatens aquatic beings and their habitat. Sustainable efforts to reduce their impact are already underway but more can be done to remove the debris. RanMarine, a company in the Netherlands built an autonomous surface vessel called WasteShark that can collect over 400 Kgs of debris on the ocean’s surface. Clear Blue Sea, a nonprofit in California, has developed robotic solutions like the Floating Robot for Eliminating Debris (FRED), which removes plastic content from the oceans. FRED is solar-powered, generates zero emissions, and is semi-autonomous. It collects the debris with brooms, a conveyer belt, and a collection bin. The collected waste then gets recycled. The French company, IADYS (Interactive Autonomous Dynamic Systems) has developed a remote-controlled garbage-collecting robot called the Jellyfishbot. This electric marine robot removes plastic waste and other debris and even cleans up oil spills from hard-to-reach places. Jellyfishbots have been deployed in about 15 French harbors. Ocean Cleanup of Microsoft uses artificial intelligence to identify parts of the ocean where there is an accumulation of plastic, simulate their movement, and generate other insights, which then help in the removal efforts.
  • Marine Education and Conservation The Boeing Company’s Liquid Robotics has developed the Wave Glider, a marine robot that glides on the water surface and collects data for as long as a year on one of its expeditions. This helps in learning more about the oceans. Stanford University’s OceanOne, a humanoid diving robot helps in studying the coral reefs of the Red Sea. It even retrieved valuable information and objects from the La Lune shipwreck that occurred in the 17th century in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Object Recovery ROVs have helped the police and fire departments in many search and rescue operations and the retrieval of lost objects.
  • Water Sampling and Environmental Survey Marine Robots with water sampling attachments are being used to test the water quality that determines the presence and levels of salt and pollutants in water bodies. Human-piloted ROVs and autonomous AUVs are used in net inspection for fish safety and fish health and ecosystem monitoring.
  • Ships, Pipelines, and Infrastructure Inspection Marine Robotics is helpful in inspecting waterways, bridges, tunnels, and dams to ensure their safety. They can also be used to survey areas before any construction takes place. ROVs incorporated with lights, cameras, and sonar are being used to inspect pipelines such as sewers, drinking water supplies, rainwater drainage pipes, and oil and gas pipelines. They check for their structural integrity as well as for corrosion, blockages, or leaching. Ships and boats regularly need to have subsea inspections undertaken to ensure that they remain functional and safe. ROVs equipped with cameras can not only inspect the ship’s exterior but can also conduct necessary repairs themselves. Hull Cleaning Robots are used in cleaning the biofouling that occurs on the surfaces of boats or ships due to the accumulation of microbes, aquatic plants, algae, or small animals on the wet surfaces of marine vehicles and damages their structures and functions. Companies are deploying underwater robotics to survey cables beneath the ocean surface, to check for their depth and positioning, and to ensure that they are not in the way of anchors or trawl nets.
  • Underwater Photography Both remotely operated and autonomous underwater vehicles can provide high-resolution images and video footage of underwater life and structures. Commercial divers can send marine robotic vehicles equipped with cameras ahead of their dives to inspect areas for safety purposes.
  • Anti-Piracy Anti-piracy robots are used to watch out for pirate attacks. They use advanced infrared cameras that capture footage in the dark.

Progress of Marine

Robotics in a Few Countries

Robotics professionals in South Korea have the full support of the government in the research and development processes. The Government of South Korea has planned to cut back on the regulations on robotics development. This country is ranked one of the highest in the world in industrial robotics usage. For the surveillance of underwater installations in the deep sea, the German Government has invested more than USD 10 million in autonomous subsea robots. The United Kingdom and Ireland are slowly emerging as leaders in marine robotics. Furthermore, the North American region is also considered to be a favorable market for the growth of marine robotics. It has several military and defense capacities such as the US and Canada, along with advancements in technologies backed by the presence of key suppliers and companies of marine robotics. Moreover, governments have been investing heavily on the marine sector with the rising focus in improving the marine sector is anticipated to create favorable opportunities for increased utilization of marine robots for varied processes.

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Exciting Opportunities Lay Ahead for

Businesses that Can Take Advantage of the Emerging Field of Marine Robotics

The future belongs to those who can build new and improved robots that can easily adapt to harsh sea conditions, devices with increased strength and accuracy, and improved sensors and battery technologies. New advancements have been introduced in the marine sector such as the marine internet of things, and radar sensors which are anticipated to bring lucrative growth opportunities for global market growth during the forecast period. Marine Robotics is all set to become one of the most dynamic markets in the coming years. It will allow the marine industry to tackle some daunting challenges in innovative ways.

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Swara Keni

Head- Global Business Development

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