Palma.—Speaking of a new robotic sub developed by the Balearic University (UIB), researcher and teacher Gabriel Oliver said yesterday that the aim of the project is to “carry out” precision tasks of underwater search, manipulation and recovery of objects under the water in depths of up to 500 metres.

Oliver, from the UIB's Mathematics and Information Technology department which was responsible for the conception and construction of the submarine, said that the submarine has been undergoing final trials at the naval base in the Port of Soller.

Oliver said that “the submarine is a team project in which eight universities in Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Italy are participating.” The UIB is coordinating the project and Oliver's research team specialising in investigation into robotics is heading the trials.

Sophisticated arm
The experiments in the Port of Soller are focusing on “the manipulation of objects using a sophisticated robotic arm.” Oliver said that the submarine technology based on observation is already quite advanced. It is a scientifically “intelligent” system, capable of detecting and identifying objects under the water of its own accord, it can manipulate the objects and carry them to the surface. The facility is something novel and useful for industry, for rescue tasks and missions of investigation.

The Balearic University has developed the technology related to the “vision” of the submarine while other teams have been focusing on the mechanics of the robotic submarine, its navigation, and the robot's “intelligence.

The tests currently being undertaken are on the Girona 500 mini-submarine also created by the Balearic University.
Working in parallel with the Girona 500, the team of the UIB created another smaller submersible, the so-called “Fugu”, in order to experiment with the advanced “vision” technology that Oliver's team have been working on.

The entire project has been financed with European Union money to the tune of three million euros. Some forty people have been directly involved in the development.

However, Oliver predicted that these are early stages for the mini-sub which could take another 10 years “to reach the market.” The cost of the prototype is already around “one million euros.” Ultimately, the min-submarine could be of specific interest to industry in terms of its being given underwater tasks to find defects in gas and electricity pipelines, and even fix the defects robotically in place of human divers.