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Tethys at sea

Tethys ready for launch

Tethys hitches a ride

Tethys with its master

Tethys' guts

Tethys gets wet

Testing Tethys

An advanced undersea robot developed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute promises to take oceanic research to a new level, going faster and farther than its predecessors--and even doing some thinking of its own.

Tethys, named after a Greek sea goddess, is an autonomous underwater vehicle unlike any other. Combining the best traits of traditional types of AUVs, it can travel faster and farther than the vehicles oceanographers currently rely on. It can also stay out at sea for weeks on end and carry larger amounts of scientific instruments than most of its counterparts, according to MBARI.

Here, Tethys takes a spin through Monterey Bay in Northern California.

Caption by / Photo by Todd Walsh/MBARI

Two Monterey Bay team members make preparations to tow Tethys out to sea.

MBARI says one benefit of the new AUV is that it can be launched by a small boat like this one, rather than requiring a large ship with a specialized crane.

Caption by / Photo by Todd Walsh/MBARI

In this photo, Monterey Bay Aquarium researchers tow Tethys out from Moss Landing Harbor, while a round, orange float keeps its nose from diving down under the sea surface.

Caption by / Photo by Todd Walsh/MBARI

Chief Technologist Jim Bellingham, shown here, led design and development of the Tethys underwater robot.

The vehicle took four years of design and development work, and underwent real-world testing cruising around Monterey Bay for much of the month of October, the team said in a statement. During those tests, Tethys completed a four-day expedition with ample battery life to spare.

Caption by / Photo by Todd Walsh/MBARI

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute employee Mike Godin works on the electronics system aboard Tethys.

One of the things that makes this bot special is that it has the ability to make some decisions on its own, without needing human operators to direct its every move.

This could allow it to conduct continuous research, without having to send back data and wait for its next command. Designed to study oceanic algae, Tethys could keep itself positioned in the center of an algal bloom, adjusting its position and speed to match that of the bloom as it moves in the ocean's currents.

Caption by / Photo by Todd Walsh/MBARI
Chief Technologist Jim Bellingham (left), Thomas Hoover (center), and Bret Hobson work on Tethys in a test tank.
Caption by / Photo by Todd Walsh/MBARI
The MBARI team inspects the underwater vehicle in a test tank.
Caption by / Photo by Todd Walsh/MBARI
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