Timely containment of oil spills is critical to mitigate damage to the environment and local fisheries. As commercial development and traffic in the Arctic increase, so too do the risk of oil spills. Even in logistically accessible, ice-free oceans, characterizing the extent and nature of a spill can be difficult. This was evident in the 2010 "Deepwater Horizon" oil spill in the Macondo Canyon, which resulted in an unprecedented amount of petroleum being released into the Gulf of Mexico.
To help the Coast Guard address this potential disaster, the Arctic Domain Awareness Center (ADAC) is partnering with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to develop the Tethys Long Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (LRAUV).
"integral to effective response operations is knowledge of where the oil is and predicting where the oil may go. with better real time data, more effective response strategies can be developed and deployed. given the additional complexity of conducting response operations in ice infested waters, whether in the arctic or in the great lakes, having the ability to detect and characterize the oil extent under ice can greatly enhance effective response actions."
captain joseph b. loring, chief of the coast guard's office of Marine environmental policy
Once complete, the LRAUV will be a propeller-driven robot used in situations too dangerous for humans. While still in the prototype phase, the LRAUV is intended to assist with under-ice data gathering efforts. It's designed to be transported via helicopter and pitched into an open water zone, where it can then guide itself to the site of an environment hazard. For additional information, please visit: https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/news-events/2017/04/07/snapshot-st-s-arctic-domain-awareness-center-supports-uscg.
Video courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.