Orpheus, the submersible robot is showcasing a system that will help it find its way and detect interesting scientific features via deep ocean exploration.

A SciTechDaily report said, on May 14, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship called Okeanos Explorer departed from Port Canaveral in Florida on a two-week journey which the NOAA Ocean exploration led, that featured an autonomous underwater vehicle's technology demonstration.

The said report also specified that terrain-relative navigation was contributory in helping the Mars 2020 Perseverance Mars rover of NASA make its precision touchdown on the Red Planet in February this year.

The system enabled the descending robot to visually plot the Martian landscape, identify hazards, and then select a safe site to land without the assistance a human.

Similarly, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter of the agency utilizes a vision-based navigation system to detect surface features on the ground during flight to approximate its movement across the surface of Mars.

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Science Times - Submersible Robot Orpheus to Undertake Deep Ocean Exploration—Reports
(Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Navy on Wikimedia Commons)
A project team hopes to see a swarm of submersible robots function as a team to develop 3D maps of the vast portions of the unexplored floor in the so-called “hadal zone,” described by WHOI as regions deeper than 20,000 feet.

The Orpheus Submersible Robot

Through the utilization of a low-power system of lights and cameras, together with advanced software, the Orpheus submersible robot is described to be an order of magnitude that's lighter than the majority of the deep-sea submersibles.

Smaller than a quad bike, with a 550-pound weight, Orpheus is designed nimble, easy to navigate or operate, and rugged while it explores depths that are not accessible to most vehicles.

Designed by Woods hole Oceanographic Institution or WHOI, in collaboration with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this submersible robot can function untethered nearly anywhere in the ocean, which also includes the most extreme depths.

Eventually, the team of this project is hoping to see a swarm of these submersible robots function as a team to develop 3D maps of the vast portions of the unexplored floor in the so-called "hadal zone," described by WHOI as regions deeper than 20,000 feet. However, the robot can explore such depths, it first needs to be put through its paces in deeper waters.

The Visual-Inertial Odometry

Robotics mechanical engineer at JPL, Russell Smith said this tech demo will be used to collect data for the demonstration of the viability of terrain-relative navigation in the ocean while at the same time, demonstrating how multiple robots will work together in extreme environments.

These tests, he added, will "put as back on track to start future dives into the hadal zone," and intelligently search for exciting sites of this high biological activity.

This version of Orpheus of vision-based navigation is also known as xVIO or visual-inertial odometry, and it functions by utilizing a system of advanced cameras, and pattern-matching software along with instruments that can accurately measure both its motion and orientation.

As this submersible robot travels through the seafloor, xVIO is able to identify features like shells, coral, and rocks below the vehicle.

Similar to remembering landmarks during a road trip, this visual-inertial odometry of Orpheus will create 3D maps through the use of such features as waypoints to help it with its navigation. This system though, is more than simply a means to preempt the submersible robot from losing its way.

Lastly, high-resolution maps xVIO is creating are stored in memory so that, when Orpheus goes back to the site, it will able to identify the distinct distribution of the features and make use of them as a starting point for the expansion of its exploration.

A related report is shown on Water Linked's YouTube video below:

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