An expedition, including researchers fromCarnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute (RI), will begin searching for the submerged bottom of Mexico’s El Zacaton sinkhole which has never been reached with a robotic submarine, called DEPTHX. The expedition seeks to learn more about the sinkhole, its physical dimensions, the geothermal vents that feed it and whatever life exists.
CMU helped to develop this special sub. The mission’s progress can be monitored at the RI’s DEPTHX Web site beginning May 15 and will feature daily updates, images and graphics. In addition, there’s a daily science writer’s blog about the expedition.
DEPTHX is unique among autonomous underwater vehicles because it has the ability to navigate untethered in complicated spaces. Since much of the sinkhole is pitch black, DEPTHX will use Carnegie Mellon software to control its flight. It relies on depth, velocity and inertial guidance sensors to estimate its position in well-mapped areas, and an array of 56 sonar sensors to find its way in unmapped areas. Water makes up such a large percentage of the Earth’s surface.
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(photo): Image courtesy of Daivd Wettergreen, Carnegie Mellon University