September 1, 2015 — Dr. Bill Dally, an associate professor in the School of Engineering at the University of North Florida, was awarded a grant for more than $500,000 by the National Science Foundation to develop an amphibious remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for coastal research and education.
With this funding, Dally, a coastal engineer, will develop an amphibious ROV, essentially an underwater surf rover, transforming the manner in which research, teaching and operational activities in coastal science and engineering are conducted. Such a vehicle will allow on site measurements during storm events and under other hazardous conditions, such as oil and chemical spills and pathogen outbreaks.
Knowledge of the physical behavior of the nearshore region has remained as a critical deficiency in understanding beach and barrier island processes. This knowledge is critical for allowing coastal communities to successfully prepare for the future and for assessing the long-term sustainability of the nation’s beaches. Developing an amphibious ROV is essential in gathering this data.
“A major obstacle in gaining this knowledge is the inability to safely make observations and measurements in the surf zone, a hostile environment characterized by large breaking waves, strong currents, intense turbulence and high turbidity,” said Dally. “The ROV can be equipped with a wide variety of instruments and observational equipment, as well as used to conduct highly accurate surveys in the surf zone and nearshore.”
Dally plans to design a bottom-crawling ROV, propelled by four hydraulically driven tracks, which will be powered by a snorkel-aspirated diesel engine. The snorkel will be equipped with drag-reducing cowlings to reduce both power requirements and impact loads from breaking waves. Also, the drone will carry antennas for radio control, data communications and video feed, as well as suitable equipment for positioning and for accurate bathymetric surveying.
With this mobile instrument platform, operations can be conducted seamlessly across the dry beach, out into the surf zone and beyond. The vehicle will also have the ability to be folded up, so it can be easily and rapidly transported on a modified boat trailer to any coastal location.
Dally’s goal is for the ROV to be commercially manufactured and to be affordable for most universities, government agencies and commercial interests. This will broaden the underwater drone’s availability to the nearshore ocean community as a whole, allowing a variety of high-priority nearshore science and engineering issues to be addressed.
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