MIT has made a recent discovery that could mean big things for the future of underwater exploration.
Scientists have landed men on the moon, photographed black holes deep in space, and landed rovers on Mars.
Yet one of the most tantalizing and mysterious places in our solar system lies right here on our planet; and more than 80% remains unexplored.
Why do we know so little about our oceans?
The further we travel underwater the more intense the pressure becomes.
Dr. Gene Carl Feldman, an oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, explains that the ocean, at great depths, is characterized by zero visibility, extremely cold temperatures, and crushing amounts of pressure.
“In some ways, it’s a lot easier to send people into space than it is to send people to the bottom of the ocean,” Feldman tells Oceana. “The intense pressures in the deep ocean make it an extremely difficult environment to explore.”
“On a dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, which is nearly 7 miles deep, you’re talking about over 1,000 times more pressure than at the surface,” Feldman said. “That’s the equivalent of the weight of 50 jumbo jets pressing on your body.”
Sheesh. Queue up Queen’s hit track: “Under Pressure,” and take a minute to appreciate being above sea level.
Just send in the robots.
Technological advancements in robotics are the driving force in ocean exploration today.
Researchers use Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to explore the ocean at depths that would otherwise crush us.
The technology has advanced so quickly that the scientific community is determined to map Earth’s entire ocean floor by 2030.
One of the issues with ROV technology is power consumption and navigation. These vehicles require immense battery packs to power their instruments.
As far as navigation goes, it’s not as simple as plugging in coordinates and sending Mr./Ms. Robot on their way.
On Earth’s surface, GPS is the best when it comes to navigation. However, GPS doesn’t really work underwater. Radio waves and water don’t really mix; who would have thought.
MIT with the solution…of course.
A team of researchers at MIT has pushed the envelope forward on underwater exploration.
Earlier in November, they published a paper on a newly developed technology that uses sound to recharge the batteries of underwater robotic systems.
Furthermore, they believe the technology could act as an underwater GPS of sorts.
The Underwater Backscatter Localization (UBL) uses environmental sounds to provide researchers with exact pinpointed locations; all at net-zero energy.
Though the technology is still in development, UBL could revolutionize ocean exploration. It could also have further applications for the aquaculture industry, the Navy, climate science, and conservation.
This isn’t the first time MIT has made a groundbreaking discovery. Check out this article (unrelated to underwater exploration 😋.)
Pretty freakin’ cool.