Military robot subs seek out sunken treasure

A robot sub designed to search for marine mines took this high resolution sonar image of an early 20th century shipwreck (Image: NOAA)

By Jeff Hecht


Robot submarines designed to hunt for underwater mines showed potential as underwater archaeological treasure hunters last week, turning up several new artefacts off the coast of Rhode Island, US.

Several military AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) took part in the archaeological treasure hunt as part of a US Navy event called AUVfest. The contest suggests that robotic submersibles could find many non-military applications as they become cheaper.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sought to test the ability of navy subs to investigate shipwrecks and inspect undersea cables and pipelines.

During the event, the subs discovered eight previously unknown objects associated with the wreck of 18th century frigate, HMS Cerberus, which was scuttled by its British captain in August 1778 during the American Revolution.
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NOAA Rhode Island American Revolution AUV HMS Cerberus