London, May 7 (ANI): A robotic submarine is undergoing final preparations to dive to the deepest-known part of the oceans.
According to a report by BBC News, if successful, Nereus, the robotic submarine, will be the first autonomous vehicle to visit the 11,000m (36,089 ft) Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean.
Only two other vehicles have ever visited the spot before, both of them human operated.
The 5 million dollars submarine will make the attempt in late May or early June after a series of increasingly deep dives.
“Instead of jumping directly into the deep end of the swimming pool with the vehicle, we’ll probably dip our toe in first,” said Andy Bowen of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and one of the designers of Nereus.
“We’ll work at 1,000m, 4,000m, 8,000m and then take a deep breath and see if we can get to 11,000m,” he added.
Ian Rouse, head of the deep platforms group at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, described the project as a “great technical challenge”.
“Below 6,500m deep (21,325ft), there are vehicles that can do a better job than Nereus due to its compromises in design,” he told BBC News. “However, from 6,500m to 11,000m, Nereus has the field pretty much to itself,” he added.
Other teams, notably the British, French, Russian and Japanese will be watching the mission “with interest”.
“The Nereus team is very experienced in designing and building other underwater vehicles, so I have no doubt they will succeed,” said Rouse.
The tests will take place on a research cruise between the 23 May and 6 June.
The Challenger Deep is the deepest-known part of the ocean, located in the Marianas Trench near the island of Guam in the west Pacific.
It is the deepest abyss on Earth at 11,000m-deep, more than 2km (1.2 miles) deeper than Mount Everest is high. At that depth, pressures reach 1,100 times the pressure at the surface.
Nereus aims to give researchers access to 100 percent of the seafloor. In its intelligent, autonomous mode, Nereus can map large areas of the ocean floor.
“The autonomous vehicle, as the name sounds, has autonomy from the human operators onboard the ship,” explained Bowen.
In this configuration, Nereus is able to fly pre-programmed missions, mapping vast swathes of the seafloor.
“It has sufficient onboard intelligence and batteries to find areas of particular interest through the use of chemical sensors, sonar and digital photography,” said Bowen. (ANI)