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Rover is a bottom-crawling, autonomous vehicle capable of making continuous time-series measurements at abyssal depths up to 6000 m for periods exceeding six months. The Rover control system and instrumentation suite are being designed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), building on the earlier rover work of Smith and associates at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The vehicle weighs 68 kg in water and crawls on two wide tracks with a combined surface contact area of about one square meter; this provides good traction while minimizing the disturbance to benthic sediments. A typical mission scenario is to take measurements for a few days at each site before picking up the instruments and moving forward ~10 m to a new site. Up to fifty sites may be visited in a single mission. Engineering field tests have been performed with the Rover in the Monterey Bay in California (890 m depth), and at Station M, 220 km west of the central California coast (4200 m depth). Rover operations have been observed with the ROVs Ventana and Tiburon, and with the manned submersible DSV Alvin. Knowledge gained from these engineering deployments has resulted in numerous modifications and improvements to The Rover.
Date of Conference: Sept. 29 2007-Oct. 4 2007