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 First Autonomous Undersea Robot

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Date posted: 21/07/2005

University of Hawaii mechanical engineers and students are close to completing the first autonomous robotic vehicle for deep-ocean work.

"This is technology that the world needs," said Gary Godshalk, of Lockheed Martin, in Kailua. "Underwater vehicles are the future."

The battery-powered aluminum vehicle, about the size of a car, is the same one shown to Navy and NASA officials two years ago, with a blue and yellow cover and significant technological advances.

"Everything that goes inside it has changed," said Song Choi, assistant dean of the College of Engineering and director and chief executive officer of Marine Autonomous Systems Engineering.

Choi said there is no underwater vehicle with the capabilities of the semiautonomous underwater vehicle. "We'd be the first ones to do it."

Underwater vehicles are available to do imaging and surveying, but UH's vehicle would be the first to carry out work in the ocean autonomously, he said.

Choi said 99 percent of the vehicle's system is autonomous, with 1 percent semiautonomous for a communications link for safety. A signal could be sent to the vehicle to stop and return if necessary.

It will be able to go to a target automatically, and the arm will deploy to do a task with no humans involved, Choi said. "The ultimate goal is to leave it in the water, and it will come back when the batteries are down. Safety-wise, it can't get better."

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