Technologies

How Antarctic ice explores with robots

The Seabed device works without communication, and in case of problems it is difficult to return it back.

Seabed are small robots equipped with sensors that are used to study climate change. To do this, they are immersed in the Arctic ice, where they collect data on the thickness of glaciers.

Seabed has to work autonomously. Seawater does not transmit normal radio signals well, and the wires cannot be drawn due to ice, so most of the time, researchers do not know what is happening with the devices under water.

To communicate with the device, scientists use something like a sonar – the robot sends sound signals, and they process them. However, this method is extremely unreliable and inefficient: at best, researchers receive a data packet of 256 bytes per minute, but may not receive anything.

As noted at Wired, in a sense, Seabed is more difficult to manage than rovers: the latter, although they send signals only every 20 minutes , but they do it steadily and consistently.

Because of communication problems, robots are usually programmed for some task in advance, but in the event of weather changes or problems, they are sent a beep to cancel the mission. Under ideal conditions, the message reaches the recipient very quickly.

However, even this does not end the problems: if the device rises in the wrong place, it will rest on thick ice and there are no guarantees that operators will be able to get it. In one of the cases in 2010, experts called Seabed to the icebreaker, and then drilled a hole to get it out of the water. Operators can’t lose robots, because each of them costs half a million dollars.

Seabed helps scientists study climate change. With the help of sonar, he is able to measure the seabed and the thickness of the ice. Scientists believe that in this way they will be able to understand the impact of climate change on the Arctic.

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