3D Robotics

Famous ABE lost at sea

A sad day for our underwater cousins:

"The ABE (Autonomous Benthic Explorer) has used its on-board acoustic transponders and five thrusters to scan the seafloor for over 15 years - locating, mapping, and photographing hydrothermal vents, volcanoes, and other features of the great deep. Marked with "NCC1701" due to its resemblance to Captain Kirk's ship, ABE has performed more than 200 missions collecting valuable data for researchers worldwide. But something went wrong last Friday on an expedition off the coast of Chile and ABE just stopped - nothing was ever heard again. No word yet on whether ABE can be located or recovered."
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  • We have to use Remus and BluFin as they are they only vehicles that can carry the heavy sensor arrays for mine counter measures we are developing. We use the small Remus for testing software architecture.

    I can't imagine the amount of engineering that went into a UUV built decades ago. It's a shame it was lost, I would have loved to look at it, if it had ever made it into a museum.
  • Thanks, we are compiling all such theories and will share them with our sponsors!
  • "...on an expedition off the coast of Chile and ABE just stopped - nothing was ever heard again."


    OMG!!! They found R'lyeh!
  • Very old school. When we started building ABE, none of us were really sure what an AUV was. But in science you use what you have. ABE had been out of service, we had been using our Sentry vehicle instead. But Sentry leaves on another expedition in a few days out of the Galapagos, I'll fly directly from Chile (hopefully) to meet it. No way we could have shipped Sentry from Chile to the Galapagos in two days (even before the earthquake), so we brought ABE back on line.

    The glass spheres were in the upper two pods (3 17", 1 10" on each side, two of those housed the acoustic transponders). We also had two 10" spheres in the tail, one for buoyancy, the other housed the camera strobe.
    In terms of failsafes, ABE had several layers. ABE carried about 70 lb of ascent weights. If anything went wrong, they were released (conversely, they only stayed on if all was right) and ABE would rise to the surface. Of course none of that mattered when the vehicle got hit by the equivalent of several sticks of dynamite. Imploding spheres at 4500 psi release lots of energy, most likely there was a "zipper" effect and they all imploded.
    We often operated ABE in a risky manner (knowingly). We went on expeditions to remote places on any ship available with no backup ROV or submersible. If ABE got in trouble, no rescue would be possible. These were the expeditions where we made our greatest discoveries.
    ABE died as it lived, on the edge. We're regretful but proud of what it accomplished. We discovered new hydrothermal vent sites all over the world, mapped coral habitats on remote seamounts, mapped the calderas of a subsea volcano. Dozens of scientists, engineers, and students used data from ABE to advance their research. It was a heck of a ride.
  • Admin
    old school !, looks ahead of its time , is the bottom half of the nose cone that you talk of glass spear?
  • ABE was very old school. We started building it in 1990. It had lots of failsafe mechanisms to return it to the surface, but none of those could withstand a glass sphere implosion. We tested them many times over the years, in fact ABE had many dramatic escapes from Davey Jones' clutches.
    The decision to use glass spheres was made with a full understanding of the risks. For deep operations, glass spheres provide much more efficient buoyancy than syntactic foam or buoyancy from pressure housings. It's a two-edged sword. By using glass, ABE was much smaller and lighter than it would have been. This was an informed risk that worked out fine for us many times (221 successful deep sea dives). Our newer AUV, Sentry, has no glass spheres. Our latest hybrid AUV, Nereus, uses ceramic buoyancy spheres. Its the only way to get really deep. Take the risk or don't bother trying. Nereus successfully dove to the bottom of the Marianas Trench last summer. We have never been naive to these risks.
    Also, the REMUS you show above is a shallow water vehicle. ABE was rated to 4500m. The deep sea REMI are fatter and heavier.
  • Admin
    thats what i assumed too, or some sort of failsafe with timer?!
  • remus_swimming.jpg

  • The Navy, (at least in my R&D division) has many more modern UUVs, none with fragile glass parts; and they are all built to be slightly positively buoyant. This way, a complete electronics failure means it will just float up to the surface.
  • Admin
    is this different one? seems not many might miss it( older one ) :)) Hey you guys get to play with cool toys :(


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