An autonomous underwater robot to study the Gulf oil spill

giugno 1, 2010 Technology No Commenti

The oil spill that so dramatically broke out under the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico has now become the most serious environmental disaster in the history of the United States, and the black tide does not seem to stop, especially after three different attempts to contain it have failed, most of all the Top Kill which had given hope for a while thanks to the heavy mud that had been pumped into the pipes, but turned out to be a failure just like the others.

The latest attempt takes the form of an autonomous underwater robot, or AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle), designed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), which has been immersed in the oily water a few days ago in order to locate and study any oil plumes under the surface of the ocean.

Generally, AUVs are programmed before letting them into the water, in order to automatically carry out certain operations once they are under the sea, for example by gathering and analyzing samples of water, to send the result of the analysis towards the mother ship, and do a check-up to assess the health of the sea around them, or to take photos or video footage, eother for scientific usage or for underwater surveillance.

This underwater robot made by the Californian researchers can measure standard characteristics of water, by detecting presence and concentration of polluting particles, or of oil like in this case.
What makes it one of a kind is the presence of ten 1.8-liter tanks, or “gulpers” which can gather samples of water , to be later taken to the surface to be analyzed, and of an artificial intelligence system which can detect the presence and boundaries of an oil plume, and gathers water samples both inside and outside the plume, to study the differences and impact on micro organisms in the water.

The robot, called Gulper after these tanks can dive up to a depth of 1500 meters, enough to reach the bottom of the sea in the affected area and gather samples near the spill.

The world’s fastest helicopter has a double rotor

giugno 1, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Sikorsky is at work to produce what, once the job is done, should become the fastest helicopter to ever grace our skies. To make it the fastest, they have equipped it with a pair of rotors, which rotate in opposite directions.

The two rotors are coaxial, that is, mounted on the same axis, and thanks to them, the Sikorsky X2 has already been able to reach, during the test phase, a maximum speed of 181 knots (208 miles per hour), faster than the 160-170 that can be reached by a traditional single rotor chopper. The ultimate target is reaching 250 knots (approximately 290 miles per hour).

The Sikorsky X2 copter is packed with state-of-the-art technology, not only the two coaxial rotors, but the rigid blades mounted on the rotors, along with an array of instruments and hi-tech solutions such as fly-by-wire control system, active vibration control and an auxiliary integrated propulsion system, which all help increasing stability and maneuverability of the vehicle.

Thanks to these features, X2 is exceeding, already in its test phase, the maximum speed achieved by conventional helicopters, which gives good hope to reach the final goal as far as performance is concerned.

Of course, the ultimate objective is not only breaking the previous speed record, held since over 20 years by the British Westland Lynx ZB-500 with 249.1 miles per hour (400 km/h), but also to build a flexible vehicle which can easily switch from high to low speed and vice versa, without losing a bit under the maneuverability point of view. Results so far seem to be more than encouraging, let’s just wait and see.


giugno: 2010
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