M2NS tech will use robotic arms to autonomously neutralize sea mines
It goes without saying that the neutralizing of underwater mines is a dangerous task – definitely one that you'd avoid sending a scuba diver to do, if at all possible. That's why Pittsburgh-based RE2 Robotics is designing a robotic system to do the job.
Drawing on a US$9.5-million contract recently awarded by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR), RE2 will act as the systems integrator for the autonomous robotic Maritime Mine Neutralization System (M2NS).
In a nutshell, that system will consist of a set of RE2's Sapien Sea Class robotic arms, mounted on a Defender ROV (remotely operated vehicle) manufactured by Pennsylvania-based VideoRay. M2NS will also incorporate RE2's Detect computer vision software for locating mines, and its Intellect autonomy software for placing "neutralizing devices" on them.
An array of sensors will additionally boost the system's situational awareness and its autonomy, helping it to better know what's going on around it, and to react accordingly.
Originally developed for the ONR, the neutrally buoyant Sapien Sea Class arms each offer six degrees of freedom for "human-like dexterity," they can operate at depths of down to 300 meters (984 ft) – or deeper, if adapted – and they're each capable of lifting up to 5.2 kg (11.4 lb) while underwater. They are not related to the inflatable arms that the company was previously developing for the same application.
"The detection and neutralization of WBIEDs [water-borne improvised explosive devices] and other underwater explosives is a critically dangerous task for Navy divers," says RE2 president/CEO Jorgen Pedersen. "The M2NS will enable the Navy to find and autonomously neutralize targets in deep ocean waters, while experienced divers supervise from a safe distance."
It is hoped that once M2NS is up and running, it could additionally be utilized for tasks such as the inspection and maintenance of offshore oil rigs and other marine structures. And when it comes to mine neutralization, the system may face some competition from Saab's existing Sea Wasp ROV.
Source: RE2 Robotics