Autonomous robotic rover: Track carbon cycling in deep-sea

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The depths of the sea and the technological constraints of working in such harsh circumstances make accessing and exploring the deep sea challenging

Scientists claim to know more about the surface of the moon than they do about the deep seafloor. To address these challenges, scientists and researchers have developed an autonomous robotic rover to learn more about the seafloor and monitor the impacts of climate change on the ocean using robotics technology.

Robotic rover Benthic Rover II, which autonomously explores 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) under the ocean’s surface, has provided new insights into life on the seafloor. 

Science Robotics published a study detailing the development and long-term operation of this rover on 3 November. This unique mobile laboratory has revealed more about the deep sea’s involvement in carbon cycling. To understand how climate change affects the oceans, we need the data collected by this rover. 

The involvement of deep-sea in carbon cycling

Although the deep sea plays an essential role in the Earth’s carbon cycle and climate, we still are unknown about the microscopic processes that occur thousands of metres beneath the surface that lead to climate change. 

Many engineers face challenges, like extreme pressure and the corrosive nature of seawater that makes sending equipment to the deepest depths of the ocean to investigate and monitor carbon ebb and flow difficult.

This long-term development and operation have made a success thanks to the design of the Benthic Rover. 

“We can now monitor the ocean’s interactions with the water column and seafloor for a longer length of time now that the rover is at sea depth. Understanding these interconnected systems is crucial for predicting our planet’s health and productivity in the face of a changing climate.” Ken Smith, a senior scientist at MBARI, stated. 

“The rover’s long-term dependability achieved after several years of testing, troubleshooting, and defining the best processes for maintaining the vehicle while spending 99% of its life underwater,” Sherman said.

The MBARI engineers and scientists, led by Smith and Sherman, collaborated and worked hard to achieve success. They created this rover to function in cold, corrosive, and high-pressure settings at sea to achieve the best results possible.

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