The autonomous sub-sea glider BRIDGES will be able to dive to more than 5km

Deep-sea unmanned submarine to explore world's oceans

An unmanned deep-sea glider capable of reaching 75 per cent of the world’s ocean is being developed by European researchers.

The glider, designed to dive to depths more than five kilometres down, will be able to stay underwater for up to three months at a time, automatically collecting samples and studying the deep-sea environment and biodiversity. It could also possibly be employed to monitor risks associated with sea-bed mining.

“The development and integration of sensors that can work at these depths will be a real challenge,” said Mario Brito from the UK’s National Oceanography Centre who leads the project. “It is something that has not been done before and so the science behind it is really innovative.”

The innovative sensors in the glider’s nose will be able to detect the presence of plumes of sediment released as a result of mining processes.

“Glider technology has proven to be one of the most promising ocean-observing techniques,” commented Pierre Bahurel, the general manager of the French ocean forecasting centre, Mercator Ocean. “Deep gliders have a strong role to play in operational oceanography, as well as enhancing our knowledge of the oceans.”

The project, named Bridges, is a partnership of 19 research institutions from across the continent. It has recently received €8m of funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme.

The UK’s National Oceanography Centre will be responsible for the development of pressure-tolerant structures within the glider and its propulsion system.

The robot will be extensively tested, with the final round of experiments to take place in September 2019 off the coast of south-east Ireland.

“This glider will be designed to meet a well-constrained reliability target, which will really help to ensure successful operations in the future,” Brito said.

The four-year research project will also involve multiple SME’s from the UK and Europe.

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