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York University researchers have developed a robot that can swim the ocean’s depths without being connected to a cord.

Using a specially built waterproof tablet, divers can wirelessly control the actions of their underwater robot (AQUA) and create “on the fly” commands as the circumstances require. Cutting the cord on underwater robots has been a key challenge because water interferes with radio signals. Previous underwater robots either had to be attached by cable, or were limited to a specific set of commands.

“A diver at 60 feet can actually teleoperate AQUA 30-40 feet deeper. Needless to say this is much easier on the diver, physically, and much safer,” says Michael Jenkin, one of the developers and a Professor at York University.

AQUA uses flippers instead of propellers to navigate, and is able to gather intricate data from shipwrecks and reefs. Its onboard camera can even create 3D models of the environment. Cool!

By attaching a thin optical cable between the robot and the tablet, divers can control the robot just like a video game. The tablet essentially become a joystick; rotate it to the left and the robot turns left, point down and the robot dives.

Jenkin is convinced that his robot is an essential evolution in underwater technology stating, “It’s impossible to anticipate all the necessary tasks for the robot once you get under water. With commands on the fly, the robot can adapt to a changing environment.”

This leaves only one question. Where can we get one?

Video starts at the 00:15 mark.


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