Tech Goes Deep: A New Era of Ocean Exploration

Rachel Smith, Applied Technology Review | Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Underwater observatory technologies offer the most permanent way of studying the deep sea.

FREMONT, CA: For most of human history, the vast watery abode sea, which covers 70 percent of the earth's surface, remained unexplored. But in recent years, technology has started to give a glimpse of the deep-sea landscape. Traditionally, explorers have investigated the ocean from ships on its surface, but today the status of sea exploration is changing drastically. Here are some of the technologies which make the transition a reality.

Fluorescence Detection Cameras

One of the biggest discoveries made in the field of ocean exploration is the proliferation of biofluorescence in the darkest parts of the sea. Realms that appear pitch black to naked eyes are actually filled with more than 250 species of fish. To detect them, researchers built a camera that filters out specific wavelengths of light like the shark's eye does. Coupled with artificial blue light to improve the fluorescent color, this equipment enables scientists to record the light show.

Soft Grippers

Collecting specimens at the bottom of the ocean is not an easy task. Researchers can't just step out of their submersible to pick up a specimen from the seabed. The only way to retrieve a sample at such depths is through a machine. So, soft grippers are a clever option to consider here. It evenly distributes the force around the creature being handled and keeps the fingers from spreading when they inflate with water. The mechanism is also sturdy enough to work at depths reaching 1000 feet.

Aquatic Drones

A remotely operated vehicle can explore the tight, crushing pockets of the ocean that human divers cannot reach. This technology is often costly and limited to research teams with massive budgets. New companies are aiming to make underwater drones more accessible to explorers.

Satellite Imaging

Sometimes the easiest method for underwater scientists to get a view of the bottom of the ocean is by sending devices to space. Satellites can estimate measurements of the peaks and valleys shaping the seabed by beaming radar pulses towards the earth and find the time it takes to bounce back. While this method doesn't offer an accurate map of the ocean floor, it can be used to measure depths in even the most remote areas.


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