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Australian-made underwater drone retrieves data from WA shipwreck at 64 metres depth

Manufacturing News

A Hydrus autonomous underwater vehicle made by Advanced Navigation was recently sent on a mission to the Indian Ocean’s Rottnest ship graveyard, sharing data with the Western Australian Museum and Curtin University to rebuild a model of a shipwreck dating back over a century.

In a statement from the company this week, it said the vehicle “utilised its advanced navigation and communication sensors to capture 4K video and imagery simultaneously” at the Rottnest site. 

A majority of wrecked ships, naval vessels, aircraft and secretive submarines at the site lay undiscovered, according to Advanced Navigation. Their depths of 50 to 200 metres mean specialised equipment and training is required to source data.

Sending a human diver or remotely operated vehicle (ROV) down to less than 50 metres depth costs roughly $20,000, according to the statement, with depths more than 50 metres “costing to upwards of AUD$100,000.” 

After learning the exact coordinates of the ship in question, a team used two Hydrus units to perform three missions, completing a full survey in just under five hours. 

“This level of efficiency is crucial for underwater exploration where costs can heighten quickly,” Advanced Navigation said. 

The results were shared with the Western Australian Museum for its public archives and Curtin University HIVE (Hub for Immersive Visualisation and eResearch). HIVE was able to rebuild a high-resolution replica of the wreck, which can be seen in lifesize form at Curtin University’s immersive Cylinder display.

Dr Ross Anderson, Curator at the WA Museum, examined the data and the wreck was identified as a coal hulk over a century old. Such iron ships were used to service steamships in the state.

“This is the clearest and most comprehensive data set the WA Museum has received from this particular wreck,” said Anderson 

“This type of high-resolution imagery is invaluable for maritime archaeological research and education on underwater cultural heritage. With tools like Hydrus, we can obtain accurate maps and 3D models of deepwater historic shipwrecks and learn more about untold stories beneath the waves.”

Advanced Navigation specialises in inertial navigation systems for land, sea, air and space. 

Its Hydrus drone was released two years ago and was named one of The Best Inventions of 2022 by Time magazine.

Pictures: supplied


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