Linux-based AUV maps Antarctic sea ice thickness

26 11 2014

Woods Hole Oceanographic used a Linux-based “SeaBED” AUV to build the first 3D map of Antarctic sea ice — and found it’s thicker than had been estimated.

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Like the Bluefin Robotics Linux-based Bluefin-21 AUV, which was used in an unsuccessful search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 earlier this year, the SeaBED surveys the surface (or in this case the ice) in lines, like a lawnmower. The SeaBED was specially fitted with an upward-looking sonar device to measure ice thickness.

SeaBED runs Ubuntu Linux on a 1.2GHz Intel Pentium. Complete source-code is provided to users, “making sensor additions or vehicle maintenance much simpler than that of competing commercial offerings,” according to Singh’s SeaBED page on the WHOI website.

The electronics are located in the top hull, and the batteries and sensors are in the bottom hull. The two hulls are connected by “wet” cabling routed through the vertical struts, says WHOI. The upper hull holds most of the positive buoyancy while the lower hull houses the bulk of the negative buoyancy, thereby increasing stability in pitch and roll conditions.

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