The Solar Powered Under Water Robot

Led by the Autonomous Undersea Systems Institute directed by D. Richard Blidberg, research teams at several institutions have developed the SAUV II, a solar-powered autonomous underwater vehicle for undersea observation and water monitoring. The SAUV has many potential applications including long-term oceanographic monitoring/profiling, a communications gateway to provide topside interface with underwater instrumentation, and long term reservoir water quality monitoring. Future versions of the SAUV could also potentially be employed for continuous reconnaissance and homeland security around costal boarders and strategic locations such as harbors.

Harnessing solar power allows for long-term deployment of the vehicle, an advantage over conventional autonomous underwater vehicles, which must be removed from the water for frequent battery recharging. The robot is capable of operating on the surface with speeds upto 3 knots or under water depths up to 500 m using a rechargeable lithium hydride battery, which allows it maximum mission endurance even under conditions of minimal solar radiation. The SAUV II is programmed prior to its deployment but can also be controlled during the mission via a bi-directional communications system.

A short video of the SAUV II can be accessed on this page (7.5 MB) and a 2005 press release from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in NY, describing the vehicle and one of the teams building it, can be read here.