Divers of the future may come across an interesting sea-dweller, if the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have their way. Thousands of autonomous underwater explorers (AUEs), or robotic probes, will be deployed throughout the world’s waters in an attempt to gather more information about oceanic phenomena.
The National Science Foundation has awarded Scripps nearly $1 million for the AUEs, which will be able to track fine ocean currents, keep an eye on potentially harmful algae blooms, and even monitor ocean catastrophes, such as plane crashes and oil spills.
There are two types of AUEs: motherships, which are soccer ball-sized devices; and the smaller explorers, which will roam through the waters, using acoustic transmissions from the larger ones to determine their positions. A related project will encourage school kids to build and deploy their own AUEs.
Scripps researcher Peter Franks thinks the devices will discover “how the small organisms survive, how they move in the ocean and the physical dynamics they experience as they get around. They should improve our ocean models and eventually allow us to do a better job of following the weather and climate of the ocean, as well as help us understand things like carbon fluxes.”