Researchers testing out their SharkCam in Mexico captured way more than they expected: Great white sharks attacked their tracking robot in the same way wild sharks hunt seals, leaving behind more damage than a chisel and a hammer could.
The REMUS (Remote Environmental Monitoring Units) SharkCam -- also known as the "Jaws Strikes Back Cam" on the Discovery Channel -- is a torpedo-shaped autonomous underwater vehicle equipped with six GoPro video cameras, along with navigational and communication tools that allows scientists to locate, track, and film marine animals up close.
The SharkCam is pre-programmed to home in on signals coming from a transponder beacon attached to previously-tagged animals at depths of up to 100 meters. This allows it to determine the range, bearing, and depth of animals like seals, sea turtles, and North Atlantic white shark (Carcharodon carcharias, the oft maligned great white). Then it closes in and positions itself in a pre-determined stand-off distance to film the animal's actions and behaviors. Meanwhile, another onboard system communicates every 10 to 20 seconds with scientists, who send commands from the surface as necessary.
Researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) have tested the REMUS SharkCam on white sharks and basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus, the second largest fish alive today) near Cape Cod, as well as white sharks near Guadalupe Island off the west coast of Mexico.
In the dozen or so encounters they recorded, it seems that the sharks lurk in the darkness below the vehicle, before suddenly swimming up to it and biting it on the tail or mid-section -- just like how they'd hunt seals in the wild.
Here’s the awesome video from WHOI, with multiple views of the (likely predatory) attack near Guadalupe Island in 2013: