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Sunday, 18 August 2013

Robotic search for lost WW2 airmen

Link: HERE

Last year, local spear fishermen diving on Palau’s western barrier reef stumbled across one of the most impressive finds: an intact plane. They alerted the owner of a dive shop, who passed photos of the wreck along to BentProp. Scannon’s team eventually identified the plane as an American Corsair.

When [they] reach the Corsair, engineers lower the [autonomous underwater vehicle], now equipped with GoPro HERO3 HD cameras, into the water, and it once again begins a methodical sweep. Back in California, [the team] will use the thousands of captured images, plus hundreds of photos taken by human divers, to build a 3-D reconstruction of the plane.

For a group like BentProp, the use of advanced oceanographic instruments is a huge technological leap forward and one it couldn’t afford on its own. The vehicles come from the University of California, San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Delaware, which received a grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research. The funding enables oceanographers to test new technologies while helping BentProp locate World War II airmen—an effort they named Project Recover.

“Historically, on unmanned underwater platforms, you might spend the better part of your experimental time just ensuring the sensors were functioning, tracking the vehicle navigation, and charging batteries,” he says. “The systems now have matured to where we can run them hard, like outboard motors. The oceanographic community is engineering new sensors for them and having them do smarter things during their searches.”