MELBOURNE, July 11 (Xinhua) -- The Australian state of Tasmania will soon take delivery of a new, world-class underwater robot which will help scientists explore new parts of the Antarctic environment.
The autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), known as the "Explorer", is capable of diving to depths of 5,000 meters and travelling more than 100 kilometers under meters of thick ice.
The AUV, built by Canadian firm International Submarine Engineering (ISE), will arrive in Tasmania in early 2017.
The robot will be programmed to collect physical data from floating sheets of ice, which hug the coast of the Antarctica. This will help scientists reveal some of the mysteries of the Antarctic environment, including its impact on the global climate.
The AUV is funded by the Antarctic Gateway Partnership, an 18 million-U.S.-dollar initiative that aims to provide new insights into the role of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in the global climate system, and by the Australian Maritime College (AMC), a specialist institute of the University of Tasmania.
AMC Principal Professor Neil Bose said the ISE contract would put Tasmania in a great position to become a global leader for underwater robotics.
"We are very pleased to have awarded the contract for our new flagship AUV to ISE. Their Explorer AUV is the most capable in the world for use under sea ice and will allow us to capitalize on the robotic age of Antarctic exploration," Bose said in a media release on Monday.
"The Explorer will join a fleet of similar underwater robots in a 750,000-U.S.-dollar state-of-the-art facility due to open at AMC in spring 2016. This world-class AUV hub will put AMC and Tasmania at the cutting-edge of research in this field and enable us to undertake a range of academic, defense and industry partnered projects."
AUV researcher Dr Damien Guihen said the unique features of the Explorer would help further scientists' understanding of the Antarctic environment.
"The new AUV will allow us to answer important questions about the past, present and future of the Antarctic continent and fringing ice shelves, as well as their role in the global climate system," he said on Monday.
"The ability to bring back physical samples from beneath ice shelves is something that has not been possible before and is necessary to cast light on the complex interactions of the ice, land and sea."