A team of unmanned subs developed by European researchers could use new software to work together as a team, exploring the ocean's deepest secrets, conducting search-and-rescue operations or, conceivably, sealing off a blown-out oil well.
The European Union-funded Grex project, named for the Latin word for "flock," involves networking software to coordinate multiple autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUVs. Multiple AUVs can benefit from the sum of their parts, as the project's Web site notes -- each could perform separate functions that contribute to a larger mission.
As oil spill estimates continue to worsen, frustration in the Gulf Coast is reaching a boiling point. But one possible reason people may feel like nothing is happening because people are not doing the bulk of the work -- robots are.
Remotely operated robots are shooting video, carrying equipment, drilling pieces into place, and monitoring the flow of oil. BP has contracted with at least four robotics companies, including Oceaneering International Inc., Subsea 7 and C-Innovation, to do the work, according to NPR.
Ships that appear in perfect working order except for a missing human crew would normally raise suspicions that something has gone terribly wrong, possibly in the vicinity of the Bermuda Triangle. Yet an unmanned frigate is exactly what DARPA's mad scientists at the Pentagon have ordered, according to The Register. The automated ships' mission would have it spending months cruising the seas unmanned, on the hunt for ghostly enemy submarines.
A robotic swarm of "ring-wing" submarines could someday scout underwater locations for oil.
Engineers from GO Science, an engineering firm specializing in aerodynamic robots, have struck a $10 million deal with an unnamed oil company. GO's ring-wing foil concept has applications for aerial vehicles as well, but the startup company has currently focused on undersea flyers.