Two Underwater Robotic Vehicles Gather Information about Sub-Sea Plume

In the weeks after the spill on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, a team of scientists led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have succeeded in locating the plume and identify its origin with the help of Dr Michael Jakuba.

The challenge faced by the team was to obtain samples for analyzing the plume’s dynamics and spatial extent and to determine the extent to which the plume stretched. According to the environmental policy of the US, the samples collected had to be tested in government laboratories.

Two robotic vehicles were used to gather samples for the plume. The purpose of the first vehicle was to find the extent of the plume and also to extract samples. For this purpose, the first vehicle equipped with chemical sensors was lowered from a ship using a cable. Such chemical sensors would in turn trace the dissolved hydrocarbons present in the sea. Sentry, the second robotic vehicle that was driven by massive software, was capable of traversing horizontally and proved useful for accurate navigation.

Prior to this operation, Dr Jakuba had worked with another team that operated a remote underwater vehicle to the Mariana Trench in the Pacific. Dr Jakuba conducts research on hydrothermal vents on the sea floor and through his research, he aims to locate all hydrothermal vents.

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