Sunday, March 28, 2010

Under Water Thinking Robot


Canada has only three years to complete a deadline which is to compile enough evidence to support its claim to a vast Northern Territory in the Arctic. It has a critical mission, to map the sea floor in this area, and at a depth of up to 5 kilometers, there is enough pressure to crush a car to scrap metal, and kill a person long before that. How can they do this without risking life and limb?

In March of this year a small team will attempt to do just that. From an ice camp just above Borden island, over 4,000 kilometers from Toronto, they plan to launch a pioneer Autonomous unmanned vehicle, named Explorer. This six meter long, yellow torpedo shaped craft will be the first of it's kind to explore a dark and mountainous world in the deep Arctic Ocean, previously unseen until now. Creeping through the depths, Explorer will travel at the same speed as a fast canoe, and tell us so much about the Ocean floor.

Staying down up to four days at a time the Explorer with
be an extremely expensive trailblazer, all by itself, with no contact from the outside world if there is trouble. If there is turbulent currents, a massive sea mount, or even some curious animal, this AUV has to fend for itself. It will have to use pre-programmed wits, it will have to decide for itself what to do in case of an emergency. Then after all of that, as it comes to the surface with it's lithium-ion batteries quickly dwindling, it will also have to find it's masters floating somewhere on one of the ice platforms in the warming seas of the Arctic.

This 'little' excursion is one of the risky, but most ambitious missions that has ever left a submersible alone in such unforgiving seas. Only the most advanced electronics and navigational systems in the world could pull this off. Who might you ask is the creator of the Explorer? It is actually a firm in the small town of Port Coquitlam, in B.C. Located here is the International Submarine Engineering Ltd., a group of ten select companies who have been competing for submersible contracts around to globe, and who have over 250 of these vehicles under their belts, selling to Naval and scientific agencies in 20 countries, including Japan and the United States.

With president of the company James McFarlane, and long time submarine designer James Furguson as vice president, this company has kept up with the technologies of underwater robots for years. They have had some wins and some losses, but are determined to be the best in the business.

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