Campus and Community

Medusa Deep Sea successfully passed its first major test

The dive at a depth of over one thousand meters allowed to test the multiple capacities of the autonomous underwater vehicle.

For those who are not familiar with Medusa Deep Sea, this is an autonomous underwater vehicle developed and produced in Portugal, which allows diving up to 3000 meters depth, collecting and storing information through an autonomous mission plan. This project, of which Técnico is a partner, has achieved a new milestone: to run a mission autonomously, diving to 1000 m water depth.

About 40 miles from the Portuguese coast and at a depth of 1219 meters, the results obtained are classified as “excellent”. This is a small step that allowed “many technical validations”, said engineer Luís Sebastião from the Institute for Systems and Robotics (ISR) at Instituto Superior Técnico. The dive allowed to validate the structure of the mechanical components and the operation of the different embedded systems. A team of 14 people and a support vessel were involved and followed-up the entire operation.

At the end of July, more tests will be carried out in Sesimbra. “By the end of the year we intend to install a sonar and a camera to carry out the first mapping missions”, says Luís Sebastião.

Medusa Deep Sea is executed by a consortium comprising Técnico; the Centre for Excellence and Innovation in the Automotive Industry (Ceiia), in Matosinhos; the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA); the Task Group for the Extension of the Continental Shelf (EMEPC) and Imar. ISR played an important role: the design of the navigation and control systems, as well as the computer and power systems, and its validation in deep sea tests.

Medusa Deep Sea is not unique, there are similar ones worldwide. However, “there are not many”, says engineer Luís Sebastião. At national level, Medusa Deep Sea has unprecedented features: “it’s the first one designed to operate up to 3000 meters depth and it’s the first one
suited for deep sea mapping”, noted the engineer.

“Due to its extended continental shelf, Portugal has great interest in mapping and knowing what’s under the sea”, pointed out professor António Pascoal, responsible for the project. Técnico and the consortium of the project will continue working so that the first underwater mappings can be carried out still in 2017.