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Is AI about to change deep-sea exploration?

Humans have explored more of outer space than our own planet’s oceans. Artificial Intelligence is about to change that.

Although oceans cover 70 percent of the planet’s surface, much of this vast realm has remained unexplored on account of it being too challenging of an environment for humans to survive in.

Our planet’s oceans can reach incredible depths, with its deepest area located in the Pacific. It is known as the Challenger Deep and stretches 11,000 metres below the surface, a distance higher than Mount Everest.

Taking a recent tragedy – the implosion of the Oceangate Titanic mission – as an example of the crushing weight of the ocean’s depths, it’s not hard to understand why scientists are now looking to rely on AI to help us learn more.

So far, sonar has primarily been deployed to map the ocean floor. It has been in use since the 1920s but has only managed to map 25 percent of our ocean successfully. What we miss with sonar are the intricate details of the deep and all life within it.

With technological developments underway, submersibles fitted with AI technology could bridge the gap.

Scientists say that underwater exploration of the future will likely be carried out by small, unmanned submersibles.

Known as Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) they will be able to dive to great depths and explore areas where humans can only momentarily peek at. With batteries that use emerging technology to recharge while underwater, it is possible that their missions could last months or even years.

If this technology is not made available quickly enough, floating docking stations could be deployed for submersibles to latch onto when their power is running low. They could also be fitted with waterproof solar panels and programmed to return to the surface to recharge.

Though both of these possibilities require some troubleshooting, the ultimate goal would be for AI-powered submersibles to be fully self-sufficient. They won’t rely on a human on shore to monitor or control their every move.

Fitting these devices with AI-powered computers will allow them to navigate and change direction autonomously using data sensors. With the help of these robots, we can learn more about ocean currents, water temperatures, and marine life that lives within them.

Once marines data is collected using robots, AI can be used to analyse and process information. It will be trained to identify trends and abnormalities amongst this data with ease, enabling humans to learn about changes that happen according to seasons and climate change.

Identifying and classifying new marine species encountered in the deep will also be a job AI is tasked with. Because we all know there’s some crazy stuff waiting to be discovered down there.

For ideas on how to engineer autonomous, AI-powered submersibles, teams of scientists at universities around the world are looking to sea creatures for inspiration.

Shrimps, in particular, are excellent at reversing and stopping movement at a moment’s notice. Creating a mechanism that can mimic this movement, made from the strongest materials, will be a priority for submersibles spending a long time in the deep ocean.

Thanks to the lessons learned from OceanGate, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that the outer structures of submersibles will have to be ultra-strong too, made out of titanium and steel.

While this is all very exciting, most companies leading this kind of exploration say they’ll need the help of a number of wealthy investors to make it a reality within the next few years.

On that note, anyone got Bezos on speed dial?