Development of Robots for Marine Applications by Japan

by OldSailor on December 9, 2007



The Underwater Technology Research Center, of the Institute of Industrial Science , University of Tokyo is playing an important role in development of Robots for Marine Applications.

The Underwater Technology Research Center is currently engaged in the following research fields:

  • Underwater Robotics
  • Underwater Acoustic Systems Engineering
  • Subsea Technology
  • Deep Ocean Engineering
  • Ocean Environmental Engineering

Underwater Technology Research Center was inaugurated in 1999, where autonomous underwater robots have been studied and developed, aiming at creating new underwater technology. An autonomous underwater robot is a dream vehicle to observe and understand the unknown areas of underwater world. Access to ocean resources and utilisation is possible only if we have innovative technology including autonomous underwater vehicles to exploit them. At present Remotely Operating Vehicles (ROV) are widely in use where unmanned ROVs are operated by human operators through cable connection. But AUVs are intelligent and autonomous without any cable connection with parent ship.

Intelligent Autonomous Underwater Vehicle r2D4

A Project to develop and deploy the new intelligent AUV r2D4 was started in 2001. r2D4 was constructed in July 2003, then deployed off Sado Island and at Kuroshima Knoll in the same year. After successful Dives at NW1 Rota 1 underwater volcano of Mariana trough in 2004, r2D4 was surveyed at Myojin-sho Submarine Crater in 2005, and found hydrothermal vents by mounted in-situ Mn ion measurement System and captured acoustic images of volcanic cone by an interferometry Sonar. The new method of on-site INS position update system is also developed for further intelligent performances.

Though the main purpose of development is the survey of undersea hydrothermal vent, deployment of r2D4 is expected to enable several undersea missions such as seeking for lost articles in undersea, surveillance of undersea volcanoes, watching of underwater species, cooperative survey with undersea station and etc., because it has realized the handy system architecture with small size.

Characteristics of r2D4

  • Compact size and light weight
    • length overall: 4.4 m
    • weight: 1,600 kg
    • Due to its compactness, r2D4 does not require the large size support vessel. And since its operation can be completed fully autonomously, neither does it require operational experts.
  • Self-Completeness
    • Laborious supports such as transponder installation are not necessary
    • Accurate positioning by the combined instrumentation of optical gyroscope and doppler sonar
    • High reliability and safety
  • By the simultaneous manipulation of the data from multiple sensors(sensor fusion): r2D4 has superior recognition ability on the complicated underwater environments transition
  • Flexible and dynamically adaptive path planning ability for the observation: If the vehicle finds out a suspicious place or an object in underwater space, it can re-generate the target path dynamically in order to make this observation.

Some more photographs of r2D4:




Earlier versions of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles:

Called as PTEROA150, is a prototype of cruising type AUVs


Called as ALBAC, is a shuttle type AUV which measures water column to and from the bed


Called as R1, long endurance vehicle


The TWIN-BURGER is a versatile test bed for advanced research on AUVs



View the video clip of micro AUVs

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