A new underwater robot that will help scientists answer important questions about the Antarctic is due to arrive in Tasmania in early 2017, thanks to a contract awarded to International Submarine Engineering (ISE).
Capable of diving to depths of 5,000 meters and travelling over 100 kilometers under thick ice, the ‘Explorer’ class autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) will be programmed to collect data on research missions, Australian Maritime College (AMC) explained.
The AUV is funded by the Antarctic Gateway Partnership—a $24 million Special Research Initiative of the Australian Research Council that aims provide new insights into the role of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in the global climate system—and by the Australian Maritime College, a specialist institute of the University of Tasmania.
Australian Maritime College principal, Professor Neil Bose, said: “We are very pleased to have awarded the contract for our flagship new AUV to International Submarine Engineering.”
AUV co-ordinator Peter King said: “The Explorer is engineered for deployment in challenging, under-ice conditions. At seven meters long and weighing around two tonnes, its duration is exceptional and can travel over 140 km—or for 24 hours—without needing to be re-charged.
“It’s also highly customisable, and the engineering team will fit it with a full suite of instruments, including a tool for collecting samples from below thick ice-shelves.”
AUV researcher, Dr Damien Guihen, added: “The new AUV will allow us to answer important questions about the past, present and future of the Antarctic continent and fringing ice shelves, as well as their role in the global climate system.
“The ability to bring back physical samples from beneath ice-shelves is something that has not been possible before and is necessary to cast light on the complex interactions of the ice, land and sea.”
The Explorer will undergo sea trials in summer 2017 and is expected to arrive at AMC in the autumn.