For the first time, an underwater robot named Nereid Under Ice (NUI) has autonomously collected an ocean sample from the mineral-rich floor of Kolumbo volcano off Santorini, according to scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
The robot was designed by WHOI engineers as part of NASA’s Planetary Science and Technology from Analog Research program (PSTAR).
“For a vehicle to take a sample without a pilot driving it was a huge step forward,” associate scientist Rich Camilli stated.
“One of our goals was to toss out the joystick, and we were able to do just that,” he continued.
NUI is slightly smaller than a smart car and is equipped with Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based automated planning software—including a planner named “Spock’—that enabled the ROV to decide which sites to visit in the volcano and take samples autonomously.
*Photo Credit: Evan Lubofsky, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution