Carnegie Mellon University(CMU) recently developed an underwater robot named Deep Phreatic Thermal Explorer (DEPTHX). This autonomous underwater vehicle is 2 meters in diameter and weighs about 1300 kilograms. DEPTHX is a four degree-of-freedom autonomous underwater vehicle,it can spin and move in any direction, and due to the fact that it has very high buoyancy and very low center of mass, it is ideal for underwater exploration as it is extremely stable when floating upright.
The software used for navigation and mapping is simultaneous localization and mapping, or SLAM, developed by Associate Research Professor David Wettergreen of CMU. SLAM allows the vehicle to build a map of its three-dimensional surroundings, and this helps to determine the vehicle' location easily in the bottom of Zacaion Cenote. Besides, the map also carries information on the water temperature and salinity levels.
In February 2007, DEPTHX successfully exlored a 115 meters deep sinkhole in eastern Mexico, and this May, the team is planning a expedition to Zacatone Cenote in central Mexico, which is over 300 meters deep. Previous explorations into Zacatone Cenote have not gone deeper than 50 meters. The goal of this exploration is to study the sinkhole's underwater environment and to discover what kinds of organisms are still living in the deepest sink hole in the world, at the same time also creating-dimensional map of the sink hole.
DEPTHX is designed for unexplored territory, where there is no external navigating. Using its autonomous navigation, robot can go to places where human could not possibly go due to its extreme environmental condition.
Exploring the deepest region where no one has gone before seems to be a big expedition, however, all these are actually preparation for seeking life on Europa, an ice-covered moon of Jupiter.
U036472X Teo Hong WeeReferences: