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India’s first underwater’ satellite’ mission being readied

The country’s first underwater robotic ‘satellite’ mission is being readied to beam back data on the enigmatic marine world in the Bay of Bengal beyond the scope of conventional diving and tow fish operations. The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and Central Marine Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), Durgapur, are building an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to collect oceanographic data with the aid of sensors to provide new insight into the world beneath the waves. Scheduled for commissioning off the waters of Chennai in 2006, the 400 kg unmanned AUV would collect data on bathymetry or measurement of depth, temperature and salinity besides video mapping marine plant and animal life in the Bay.

“For the first time, India will be able to generate and maintain its own exhaustive marine data in line with similar projects being considered by countries like USA, UK, Russia and Japan,” Professor of IIT’s Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture department L R Raheja is quoted to have said. The Rs 6.94 crore project, one of the biggest bagged by the Institute in recent times, has been commissioned by the Union HRD ministry’s Department of Ocean Development, Raheja, also the principal investigator of the project, said. The AUV modeled in the shape of a fish for better underwater navigation, could also be used for other purposes by attaching robotic arms, he said.

CMERI Director Dr Gopal Sinha said the AUV would store data from sensors in computers onboard.