This intrepid robotic is the Wall-E of the deep sea

With extra-wide tracks and a bunch of other clever features, the Benthic Rover II can roam the seafloor for years at a time.

Enlarge / With extra-wide tracks and a bunch of different intelligent options, the Benthic Rover II can roam the seafloor for years at a time. (credit score: Madison Pobis | MBARI)

The Benthic Rover II is the scale of a compact automotive, though it rocks fats treads, making it extra like a scientific tank. That, together with the 2 googly-eye-like flotation gadgets on its entrance, provides it a type of WALL-E vibe. Solely as an alternative of exploring a garbage-strewn panorama, BR-II roams the Pacific seafloor, 13,000 toes deep. The robotic’s mission: to prowl the squishy terrain searching for clues about how the deep ocean processes carbon.

That mission begins with a wild trip, 180 miles off the coast of Southern California. Scientists on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Analysis Institute decrease BR-II into the water after which … drop it. Utterly untethered, the robotic free-falls for 2 and a half hours, touchdown on the abyssal plains—nice stretches of what you may generously name muck. “It is mushy and dusty on the identical time,” says MBARI electrical engineer Alana Sherman, coauthor on a brand new paper in Science Robotics describing findings from the robotic’s adventures. “Which is a part of the explanation it’s a tracked automobile, and it has these actually broad treads.” That additional floor space distributes the robotic’s weight so it doesn’t sink into the sand.

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