Technology

Robot Crab To Give You Nightmares

March 26, 2014 | by Stephen Luntz

Photo credit: KIOST This underwater vehicle looks creepy enough still, wait until you watch it walk
When designing robots that need to move over rough terrain it is fairly inevitable that engineers will turn to biomimicry, looking at the way hundreds of millions of years of evolution has shaped animal approaches to the same problem. Moving along the ocean floor is different to steep hillsides or icy slopes so the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology has used crustaceans as its muse, naming their 600kg monster the Crabster CR200.
 
This video shows it moving without its outer shell, made of glass-fibre skin over a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic frame. The absence of the cheerfully colored shell just makes it seem more menacing. Testing below 200m is due to start soon. 

Warning – there is a vaguely spidery feel to its motion, so the first video should be treated with care by arachnophobes, particularly just before bedtime.

Besides the intense pressure at depths of more than a few tens of metres, strong tidal currents make it difficult to explore many important underwater locations. The Crabster's role will be to tackle places where the rough conditions don't suit propeller-driven craft. Unsurprisingly, shipwrecks are particularly common where the waters are rough and shallow, so the Crabster will have plenty of targets.

Another advantage to this mode of transport is that it will shake up less material from the ocean floor, assisting visibility. Power comes from an external source, allowing the Crabster to stay underwater almost indefinitely. Four people are required to operate the vehicle; a pilot, co-pilot in charge of lights and the gripping front legs, a navigator and someone to monitor and operate the sensing equipment. This all occurs from a remote station operating out of a shipping container near where the Crabster is deployed, using a 500m tether.

Images produced by the Crabster on its test run in shallow waters can be seen here, along with footage of it being moved in and out of the water

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