New Tools and Approaches Help Make Better Use of World's Underwater Resources

With the world's land-based resources becoming increasingly scarce, it is time to learn to make the most of its oceans, lakes, rivers, and seas.

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  1. With the world's land-based resources becoming increasingly scarce, it is time to learn to make the most of its oceans, lakes, rivers, and seas. That growing realization has spurred a new drive to develop tools that can make land-based human beings more capable of exploring and utilizing these watery places.

    The advance of the underwater remotely operated vehicle is an excellent example of this. Formerly, underwater exploration invariably centered around human beings, whether in the form of divers equipped with scuba gear or submersible vehicles piloted by skilled occupants. Increasingly today, however, it is a micro rov or similar remotely operated vehicle that does the exploring.

    That turns out to make a big difference in several ways. For one thing, a vehicle that is designed only to carry the necessary instrumentation and tools is typically much less expensive to produce. The full-scale submersibles that have formerly been the norm typically cost millions of dollars, at a minimum, to manufacture. The micro submersibles of today often cost only a fraction of that.

    Secondly, these smaller, less expensive machines are also frequently much tougher than their predecessors. Because their designers do not have to account for human occupants, they can instead focus on making the vehicles themselves as sturdy and reliable as possible. That means that they can be suited for projects that most human operators would never sign on for, opening up the possibilities as to what and where can be explored.

    Third, these smaller, faster vehicles often gather data more quickly than those piloted by humans. Because they are so much smaller, they can work their way into crevices that allow for greater insights, and they typically travel much at much faster speeds than lumbering vehicles that carry people. That further reduces the costs associated with using them, making many projects even more attractive.

    Finally, losing such a vehicle, while always something to be avoided, is nowhere near the tragedy that the equivalent with a human-operated one would be. Because human lives are not at stake, a whole range of potentially dangerous exploration projects can now be pursued. As companies like underwater camera are showing, these projects often produce impressive, valuable results, too.

    Just as human beings begin to confront the challenges of making better use of the world's underwater resources, then, new tools aimed at helping to overcome them are arriving on the scene. These new options are already proving their value on a daily basis and will only become more important as time goes on.