One problem with conventional ROVs is that while their propellers are plenty strong enough to kick up columns of silt from the sea floor, they typically lack the power to effectively navigate in strong currents, which limits where and how well they can survey a given area. But this new underwater explorer sidesteps both of these problems by skittering around the sea floor like a crab.
Developed over the past two years by a team at the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) led by Bong-huan Jun, the Smart Car-sized Crabster CR200 is designed to survey shipwrecks and areas of scientific interest in turbulent coastal waters down to 200m, where currents can reach speeds of 1.5m/s and the water pressure tops 25bar (about 362 psi).
The Cr200 does this by crawling about on six articulated legs — the rear four have four degrees of freedom while the front two have six — though the ROV can also fly along the seafloor like conventional craft using thrusters. If it spots something of interest with any of its 10 optical cameras, the CR200 can grab it with its front two legs, which double as manipulator arms, and store it in a frontal compartment.
The current model is powered through an umbilical tether from its mothership which allows the CR200 to deploy for more than 24 hours. Future iterations will likely have an onboard power source as well as the ability to "swim" like a sea turtle using its rear legs rather its thrusters and dive as deep as 6km. But first the ROV must first be tested next month off the coast of South Korea. If successful, James Cameron might just soon have some robotic competition. [gizmag, mechatronic, IEEE , KIOST, Isotope]