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Tracked Bottom-Crawling Robot Gathers Valuable Deep-Sea Data

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The Benthic Rover II deep-sea autonomous vehicle was designed by a team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

The Benthic Rover II autonomously moves across the deep ocean floor for a year at a time.

Credit: MBARI

The Benthic Rover II robot developed by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute researchers has spent seven years collecting deep-sea data 140 miles off California's coast.

The battery-powered vehicle operates at a depth of 13,123 feet, crawling the seabed on treads, and measuring phytoplankton and plant debris concentrations, water temperature and oxygen, and the oxygen consumption/carbon dioxide output of mud-dwelling organisms.

Since the rover cannot transmit directly to shore, a Wave Glider autonomous surface vehicle travels to its point of operations, picking up and retransmitting its acoustic pulses to shore via satellite.

The rover operates in one-year cycles, and at their conclusion it is hauled back up to have its batteries changed, its data downloaded, and any required maintenance.

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