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UCSD Scientists Will Develop Mini-Robots To Explore Ocean

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography has been awarded nearly $1 million to develop new tools for ocean exploration.

Scientists will use the money to develop miniature robots that will explore ocean ecosystems in small scale.

Peter Franks is a UC San Diego professor of biological oceanography.

He said the robots can be programmed to track and monitor algal blooms off San Diego's coast.

"How does it emerge at the coast," Franks asks. "How does it develop over weeks and months to finally show up as a really dense red tide that colors our waters. And in other regions I think they're going to be extremely useful for actually tracking toxic plumes as well."

While oceanographers have become skilled in detailing broad ocean processes, Franks says there's a need to turn the focus to a smaller scale.

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Avatar for user 'DanielKane'

DanielKane | November 12, 2009 at 11:27 a.m. ― 7 years, 3 months ago

Here is a bit more background on this story. Aside from building the robots themselves, one of the huge challenges facing the researchers is getting the swarms of robots to work together...this is especially difficult in an underwater setting in which the environment is unpredictable and the computing power of the robots is limited. Mechanical engineers from UC San Diego recently received a complementary $1.5M grant from the NSF to develop the controls systems that will keep these swarms of algae-tracking robots together in the ocean. It's like herding cats underwater. Read about the control-systems side of this story, and how this project relates to tracking oil spills at:

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