Autonomous probes and drones are useful for scientists around the world to explore the oceans. There are challenges in designing underwater drones and other unmanned underwater vehicles because they can interfere with the environment and have difficulty adapting to confined spaces. Purdue University researchers have created a new underwater drone that is easy to maneuver and has a low cost.
The Underwater glider It can operate silently, and its components and sensors can be swapped out or added to, allowing it to meet a wide range of job profiles. Researchers say their underwater glider can travel for weeks or months between charges, making it useful for deployment in high-risk areas. Underwater gliders differ from other marine robots in that they do not have an active propeller or propulsion system.
Instead, the glider makes changes to its buoyancy, sinking and rising to propel itself forward. The up-and-down approach allows for energy-efficient vehicles, but is also problematic. Underwater gliders are usually expensive, slow and unmaneuverable. The vehicle, created by the researchers, is called the ROUGHIE, a torpedo-shaped glider for underwater research for hands-on investigative engineering training.
It is about four feet long and has no external thrust or control surfaces other than a fixed wing. When the boat is deployed from the shore or the boat, it pumps water into the ballast tanks to change its buoyancy and provide the angle of the initial glide path. Incline is controlled by the car battery subtly shifts the weight forward and backward.
Steering is provided by a set of internal components mounted on a precisely rotating rail to control the vehicle’s turn. ROUGHIE has a turning radius of only 10 feet compared to 33 feet for other gliders. The device can also be equipped with various sensors to collect temperature, pressure and conductivity data.