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Giant Crab Robot To Help Explore What Lies On The Ocean Floor

posted 1 Aug 2013, 06:13 by Mpelembe   [ updated 1 Aug 2013, 06:16 ]

South Korean researchers say they have developed a giant robot crab aimed at underwater exploration.

NAMYANGJU, SOUTH KOREA (JULY 16, 2013) (REUTERS) -  'Crabster' is equipped with a long-range scanning sonar and 10 optical cameras, and was created by a group of South Korean scientists from the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST).

The robot is 2.5-metres tall and weighs 650 kilograms. Researchers said its design is based on the characteristics of sea crabs and lobsters to perform well in the shallow ocean by shifting its posture, allowing it to work in fast-moving current. A major problem with traditional propeller-driven underwater remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) is that they struggle to work in strong currents, while their propellers kick up detritus and reduce operator visibility.

"The Crabster was inspired by the crab in many respects, from its numerous legs to its ability to withstand strong currents. It is an underwater exploration robot that utilizes its multiple appendages to overcome strong ocean currents and uses sonar mapping to navigate in low-visibility conditions," said South Korean principal research scientist of KIOST, Jun Bong-huan.

The six-legged robot has a total of 30 powerful joints in its legs. Two front legs can be used as arms to pick up objects and store them inside a front compartment before rising to the surface. Its long-range scanning sonar scans up to 200 m (650 ft) away.

In a few weeks' time the Crabster and its control station will be transported by shipping container to waters off the coast of South Korea and lowered 200 metres by crane to the sea floor where it will undergo its first real world trials. The goal is to eventually explore historical wrecks and other sites.

"Its main purpose is underwater exploration. Aside from that, it can also harvest small samples and assist in larger scale operations carried out by other vessels and human divers. For example, if a certain object needed to be raised from the ocean floor that is too large or heavy to be transported by the Crabster alone, it can carry and attach a towing cable connected to a surface vessel so that it may be collected," said Jun.

The prototype can operate for more than 24 hours at a time through an external power cable.

Researchers said they hope to enable Crabster to move without the cable and one day help it to swim like a real crab.