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­nderwater Robot For Port Security

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A screen shot from an animated video shows how the robot could be used to perform ultrasound scans.

A submersible robot developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology can perform ultrasound scans on ships to determine if they have the false hulls and propeller shafts that smugglers often use to conceal contraband.

Credit: MIT News

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a submersible robot with a flattened panel on one side so it can slide along an underwater surface to perform ultrasound scans.

The robot is small and has a unique propulsion mechanism, and it could be used in fleets. Half of the robot is waterproof and houses the electronics, while the other half is permeable and houses the propulsion system, which is comprised of six pumps that expel water through rubber tubes. "It's very similar to fighter jets, which are made unstable so that you can maneuver them easily," says MIT researcher Sampriti Bhattacharyya.

The next prototype will feature wirelessly rechargeable batteries and modifications to the propulsion system, which should increase the robot's operation time on a single charge from 40 minutes to 100 minutes. The researchers say the device could inspect ships for the false hulls and propeller shafts that smugglers often use to conceal contraband. The robot's size and lack of a visible wake means it could be hidden in clumps of algae or other camouflage.

The MIT researchers also are exploring mechanical systems that would create hydrodynamic buffers of just the right depth to enable the robot to perform ultrasound scans without surface contact.

From MIT News
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