Roughly 80% of the global ocean floor is still entirely unknown or has not been measured in a modern manner. Now, international maritime and scientific communities are grouping together to map the entire Earth's seafloor by 2030.
Ocean Infinity, one of the exploration companies part of this community, has unveiled its newest operational fleet: robotic boats.
This means no humans will be in or on this armada of robot ships, incidentally, the fleet is named Armada.
How will the fleet operate?
The GEBCO Seabed 2030 project was put together to try and close the seabed data gap once and for all and has shared the different ways it plans to do so. One such method is leveraging new technologies such as this fleet of ocean-going robot ships created by Ocean Infinity.
The company plans on transforming the ocean information industry by relying on the latest technology and the most powerful computers available.
They are looking to use wholly robotic systems for marine exploration that take people out of the sea and, in doing so, create the absolute minimum environmental impact as possible. The hope is to still deliver the same high-quality and high-powered information that their regular human-controlled ships would provide.
The company's CEO, Oliver Plunkett, told the BBC "so far the company has ordered 11 robots of different sizes, the smallest ones being 21 meters, and the biggest is up to 37 meters, all of which are capable of trans-oceanic journeys, controlled from control centers on land." The main control center will be based in the Southampton area on the South Coast of England.
Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s CEO: We are very excited that we continue to be world leaders in the use of technology in scale for seabed survey and on this occasion in particular whilst working with our trusted partner Guardian Geomatics to deliver a service to Shell.— Ocean Infinity (@Ocean__Infinity) May 16, 2019
The robot ships are fitted out with an array of sensors and equipment, and their own capability to deploy tethered robots to inspect all the way down to the floor of the ocean: 6,000 meters (19,684 feet) below the surface.
The boats will not only be mapping the seafloor, but they'll "also inspect pipelines, survey bed conditions for telecoms cables and off-shore wind farms," as per Plunkett.
"The 37m will actually take about 60 tonnes of deck cargo. We're looking at logistics services in places like the North Sea, running containers out to oil and gas platforms."
The ships' speed can go up to 12 knots, the 21m ones have a range of 3,700 nautical miles, and the 37m ones can reach 5,000 nautical miles. They'll be powered by diesel electric, with reduced CO2 emissions compared to regular boats.