Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Crab-walking the ocean floor

The number and types of tools we have for probing the oceans grows every year.  Robot tuna, sharkfin cameras, and free-swimming and tethered ROVs are extending our vision and reach into the depths.
One thing we can't do yet is crawl - that is, crawl along the seafloor like a spider would, investigating caves, wrecks, and sea life up close.  This Korean invention is out to change that. Looking like a portable generator that grew legs, the 650-kg Crabster 2000 will give us a view we've never had before. It carries sonar and visual imaging systems, though more sensors and tools will be added later, and specialized versions may be developed. Making future versions able to swim "like turtles" is another objective.  Much depends on how it does in initial sea trials now underway. 
The Crabster 2000 isn't capable of everything. The initial model only goes to 200m and crawls at 10cm.minute.  But it's an interesting concept that may pay off big for oceanography. 

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