Treasure Hunting Robots


There was a great article today on POPSCI about the robots being used to map shipwrecks in the Mediterranean, which according to the article is a "sea that covers nearly a million square miles and may contain as many as 300,000 wrecks."

Brendan Foley, Marine Archaeologist, has a different motive and strategy than most:

Rather than sending dive teams down to survey 1,000-foot transects one fin kick at a time, Foley prefers to use autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to survey huge tracts of seafloor... He wants to go faster, he says, because he needs a lot more information. Maritime archaeologists can spend years on just a few sites, but for Foley’s purposes, a solitary wreck is statistically weak—nothing more than a few words from a greater conversation. To understand the entire conversation, maritime archaeologists must study many wrecks and identify patterns between them. Foley’s model is not the soft science of digging and interpretation, but the hard science of high-throughput screening deployed by gene and drug researchers, who gather data at an industrial rate and analyze that data with powerful computers able to detect subtle patterns beyond the reach of ordinary analysis.

It looks like Foley's robot of choice is the Remus 100, "a $375,000 autonomous robot on loan from Woods Hole, equipped with a video camera." With such high costs, Foley's model seems unsustainable with an annual budget of $500k.

Is it just me, or does this seem like a better job for 400 OpenROV's?


It's not just you, it sounds right. You could cover a lot more ground for sure and just have TONS of data to sift through.