The Robotics Institute
RI | Seminar | January 18, 2002

Robotics Institute Seminar, January 18, 2002
Time and Place | Seminar Abstract | Speaker Biography | Speaker Appointments

Exploration of the Arctic Ocean using Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

Hans Thomas
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Time and Place
1305 Newell-Simon Hall
Refreshments 3:15 pm
Talk 3:30 pm

The Arctic Ocean plays vital roles in global climate, ocean circulation, and sea level. Long-term monitoring of the Arctic, however, is complex and daunting, due to its year-round ice cover, temperature extremes, and long periods of total darkness. Over the last century of arctic exploration, ocean scientists have relied on such platforms as icebreaking ships, aircraft and, most recently, nuclear submarines to gain access to the surface and waters of the remote arctic. While manned submarines have proven to be an ideal platform for oceanographic research in ice-capped regions, their availability to the US science community is coming to a close with the decommissioning of the last of the Navybaffiliation
s ice-capable subs. In this talk, I will describe the Atlantic Layer Tracking Experiment (ALTEX) Project, which is developing an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) which will replace many of the oceanographic measurements previously made by submarine. The ALTEX vehicle is designed to perform a 1000 km transect in the arctic ocean, from the island of Svalbard east to the Franz Josef Islands. This transect will allow measurement of the Atlantic inflow water into the Arctic, a key oceanographic parameter in modeling the temperature and ice coverage of the arctic basin. The vehicle includes several unique technoligies: ice-melting buoys which can be deployed to relay data via satellite; aided, high latitude inertial navigation; and an aluminum semi-fuel cell allowing 14 days of autonomous operation. The ALTEX program completed its first arctic field trial of the vehicle this past October, performing a month of dives in the area of Svalbard. I will present results of this field trial, and describe plans for the future full mission cruise in 2003.

Speaker Biography
Hans Thomas began working on robotics in the late 1987, doing eye/hand coordination research on NASA's Flight Telerobotic Servicer system. He attended Carnegie Mellon University from 1987 to 1991, where he worked on NAVLAB and the AMBLER. Since he left CMU for the wilds of California, Mr. Thomas has worked on commercial computer vision systems for real time control, as well as a commercial golf caddy robot. He spent another six years at NASA, working at the Ames Research Center on visual tracking for robot control, stereo processing, and on-board planning and control for deep space satellites. For the last year and a half, Mr. Thomas has worked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), where he is focusing on autonomous underwater vehicles.

Speaker Appointments
For appointments, please contact Yanxi Liu (

The Robotics Institute is part of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.