US naval scientists have designed a robot that can navigate through underwater environments and spot mines the size of an iPod attached to a ship's hull which could be critical to the vessel's security. “A mine this small may not sink the vessel or cause loss of life, but if it bends the shaft, or damages the bearing, you still have a big problem,” says Franz Hover, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, who is heading the project.
Ability to swim around a ship's hull and view complex structures
“The ability to ensure that the bottom of the boat doesn't have a mine attached to it is really critical to vessel security today,” adds Hover, who designed algorithms with graduate student Brendan Englot to tweak these robots' navigation and feature-detecting capabilities, the International Journal of Robotics Research reports. Such a robot is able to swim around a ship's hull and view complex structures such as propellers and shafts. The goal is to achieve a resolution fine enough to detect a 10-cm mine attached to the side of a ship, according to an MIT statement.US Navy has for years employed human divers and also trained dolphins and seas lions to look for underwater mines attached to ship hulls. While animals can cover a large area in less time than their human counterparts, they are costly to train and maintain and don't always perform as desired.