This underwater robot may soon replace divers in dangerous operations

It's ideal for search and rescue missions.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The Tethys robot underwater.jpg
The Tethys robot underwater.

ETH Zurich/YouTube 

Scientists at the ETH Zurich spinoff company Tethys Robotics have developed an underwater robot that can be deployed in situations that are too dangerous for human divers to undertake.

This is according to a report by InceptiveMind published on Saturday.

The new machine is an autonomous underwater vehicle that has been specifically engineered for use in challenging and dangerous environments like turbid channels and rivers. When conventional search and rescue techniques fail, the Tethys robot is there to take over.

The Tethys robot boasts a swappable lithium battery that allows it to operate on a single charge for four hours, weighs 30 kg when on the water, has a top speed of 2 meters per second, and has a fiber optics cable reach of up to 10 km. 

It also comes with acoustic sensors, cameras, and AI-based algorithms that empower it to autonomously search large areas underwater and quickly and efficiently spot objects or people. This means it can do the job of divers and rescue teams in the most dangerous of situations.

What does it do with what it spots? Well it can carry it to the surface as it can grab and sustain up to 40 kg of weight. Once a target has been pinpointed, a human operator can take over the navigation eliminating any danger or error that can occur from the robot operating autonomously.

Search and rescue operations

Tethys claims its new device has already been used by several local authorities for underwater search and rescue operations, according to InceptiveMind. While the robot is highly useful it is by far not the first of its kind.

In February of 2023, robotic units called RoboSalps were unveiled that have been modeled on the design and life of zooplankton. They have been engineered to operate underwater in unknown and extreme environments, such as extra-terrestrial oceans. 

"RoboSalp is the first modular salp-inspired robot. Each module is made of a very lightweight soft tubular structure and a drone propeller which enables them to swim. These simple modules can be combined into 'colonies' that are much more robust and have the potential to carry out complex tasks," researcher Valentina Lo Gatto of Bristol's Department of Aerospace Engineering, who is leading the study, said at the time in a statement.

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