CSIC's Marine Technology Unit incorporates a new robot AUV

NEMO is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can reach 500 meters deep carrying various instruments for marine exploration. Its open architecture will allow carrying out tasks in different areas of marine science: marine resources, geological risks, underwater archaeology, conservation of marine habitats or monitoring natural reserves.

Test with NEMO carrying different instrumentation at the UTM laboratories (Credits: UTM / CSIC)The CSIC's Marine Technology Unit, responsible for the management of this organization's oceanographic research vessels, is preparing a new autonomous underwater vehicle for future campaigns.

It is the Girona 500 NEMO, a remote-controlled autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can go down to an operating depth of 500 meters. Designed and built by the IQUA Robotics company, a company from Girona and the only Spanish company that manufactures AUV. NEMO was acquired at the end of last year by means of FEDER European funds and was tested for the first time in the waters of Sant Feliu de Guixols (Girona).

The NEMO AUV has an open hardware, allowing it to be adapted to various types of configurations and to be equipped with a variety of instrumentation. Currently, the technicians of the Marine Technology Unit are preparing NEMO for carrying CTD sensors (which measure conductivity, temperature and depth), photographic cameras, current profilers and bathymetric probes. "Our vehicle has an open architecture, so it can be adapted in a reasonably simple way to user requirements and therefore explore new ways of working," explains Pablo Rodríguez, from the UTM.

Thus, it will allow mapping underwater habitats, obtaining topographies of the seabed, of interest in the field of geology or underwater archaeology, exploring marine habitats or monitoring natural reserves. In the near future, the vehicle could also be deployed in Antarctic campaigns. NEMO has sparked interest among researchers, who are already including its use in future projects.

The AUV NEMO was tested for the first time in the coast of Sant Feliu de Guixols (Credits: UTM / CSIC)

NEMO is sized one meter high, one meter wide and one meter and a half long. It has wide space for placing instruments while maintaining a compact size that allows the vehicle to be operated from small boats.

There are not many vehicles of its type. At the national level, there are two equal and a third smaller in other institutions. At an international level there are half a dozen similar vehicles, although with different configurations and uses, in research institutions such as Geomar (Germany), the National Oceanography Centre (England) or the National University of Daejeon (South Korea).

The Marine Technology Unit (UTM), based in Barcelona and attached to the Mediterranean Center for Marine and Environmental Research (CMIMA) of the CSIC, has the main objective of providing support to the national policy of R&&I in science and marine and polar technology. The UTM is in charge of the integral management of the Sarmiento de Gamboa Oceanographic Vessel, the logistics and technological management of the Hespérides Oceanographic Research Vessel and the integral management of the vessels García del Cid and Mytilus, as well as the BAE Spanish Antarctic Base Juan Carlos I.