US Navy to deploy aquatic mine-sniffing robots

The US Navy has created a deepwater robot that it will use to dive and search out underwater mines.

Measuring 5.8 meters and weighing 1,700 pounds, the Knifefish underwater robot is powered by lithium-ion batteries and moulded like a torpedo.

It is claimed that it will be able to roam the seas for roughly 16 hours at a time and sweep for mines by sending out low-frequency sound signals.

If they bounce off a man-made object, the robot will create an image of this, which is sent back to experts on board a nautical submarine.  

According to Bloomberg, around 50 countries have a total of 250,000 underwater mines that could be dropped in oceans around the world. The Navy believes that if these were to be deployed then they could potentially blow up ships as well as disrupt oil pipes, telephone and internet lines.

Traditionally it has sent down ships and divers to search and defuse these dangers – as well as using trained dolphins equipped with sensors and cameras. However, the robot should be able to sniff these out more safely and quickly. The snag is once a drone finds a suspicious object it must send out divers to investigate further.

The US Navy will spend $170 million over the next five years to design eight of the robots, with the first one taking its dive in 2016.

These will be created by General Dynamics and Bluefin Robotics, and it is estimated that the Navy will have purchased 52 of these by 2034.