It goes without saying that disabling underwater mines is a dangerous task – certainly one that you should avoid sending divers to do, if at all possible. That’s why Pittsburgh-based RE2 Robotics is designing a robotic system to do the job.
Building on a $9.5 million contract recently awarded by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR), RE2 will act as the system integrator for the Robotic Automated Marine Mine Neutralization System. (M2NS).
In a nutshell, that system will consist of a set of RE2’s Sapien Sea Class robotic arms, mounted on a Defender ROV (remotely operated vehicle) manufactured by Pennsylvania-based VideoRay. M2NS will also incorporate RE2’s Detect computer vision software to locate the mines and its intellectually autonomous software to place “disarming devices” on them.
An array of sensors will also enhance the system’s situational awareness and its autonomy, helping it better know what’s going on around it and react accordingly.
Originally developed because the ONR, floating neutral Sapien Sea Class arms, each offering six degrees of freedom for “human dexterity”, they can operate at depths of 300 meters (984 ft) – or deeper , if adjusted – and they are both capable of lifting up to 5.2 kg (11.4 lb) underwater. They are not related to the inflatable arm that the company was previously developing for a similar application.
“Detecting and Disabling WBIEDs [water-borne improvised explosive devices] and other underwater explosives is an extremely dangerous task for Navy divers,” said Jorgen Pedersen, RE2 president/CEO. The M2NS will allow the Navy to automatically find and neutralize targets in the deep sea, while experienced divers monitor from a safe distance. “
It is hoped that once the M2NS is operational, it can also be used for tasks such as inspection and maintenance of offshore oil rigs and other marine structures. And when it comes to mine deactivation, the system could face some competition from Saab’s existing Sea Wasp ROV.
Source: RE2 Robotics