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SubjuGator wins robot sub competition

The early results are in. For the third year running, the University of Florida has the No. 1 underwater autonomous vehicle.

Once again, the top dog among robotic subs is a Gator.

The SubjuGator team from the University of Florida has finished first for the third straight year in the balmy San Diego waters of the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition.

SubjuGator in the pool
The SubjuGator surfaces in the center of the recovery zone on Saturday. Machine Intelligence Lab, University of Florida

There aren't many details to offer just yet on how Sunday's finals went. So far, it's just the Gators and the Proteus team from Cornell University that have posted brief notes on who won. Cornell reports that it finished fourth overall, behind Florida, the University of Rhode Island's (Ram-boat 8) and Montreal's Ecole de Technologie Superieure (Sonia).

Of the 28 teams that entered the competition, just 7 qualified for the finals, Cornell's team reported Monday morning. Qualifying rounds took place Friday and Saturday.

Cornell isn't wasting any time getting ready for 2008. "Before next year's competition, we hope to accumulate much more practice time with Proteus and a probable new vehicle. In fact, we began brainstorming for next year's vehicle after the competition," the team wrote on its blog late Sunday.

To see some of the undersea vessels entered in the 2007 competition, click here: "Photos: Robot subs vie for top honors."

So what do you do once you've created a robot sub? Some people go into business. By coincidence (apparently), The Boston Globe on Monday ran a story on autonomous underwater vehicles that hunt for ocean-going mines. A Massachusetts company called Hydroid, for instance, has sold about 130 of its Remus AUVs (which use an Intel 486 processor and MS-DOS) to the U.S. Navy, as well as the navies of the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, the Globe reports. Some of the Remus machines have been used in Iraq war operations, and they're also being put to use by marine biologists.

It's no coincidence that one of the entities behind the AUVSI competition is the Pentagon's Office of Naval Research, and that the submarine races took place at the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center.