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Institute of Industrial Science Underwater Robot: PTEROA 150

Professor Tamaki Ura of the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science created this underwater robot called PTEROA 150 in 1989. What is on display here is the actual robot.

The ocean is often called the Earth’s last frontier, and still conceals many scientific mysteries and untapped resources. Exploration is necessary to uncover these mysteries and spur resource development. However, until the time this robot was made, the only methods of exploring the ocean depths were through manned vehicles such as submarines and unmanned vehicles that required long cables to operate. Both of these options have their drawbacks: manned exploratory missions are costly and dangerous, while unmanned vehicles with cables are limited due to the bulky size of their systems and restricted scope of their exploratory abilities.

Professor Ura wanted to make an underwater robot that would cause a breakthrough in the field of underwater exploration. He realized that an unmanned robot without cables could have a greatly expanded freedom of movement and would keep costs down. He thus went on to research and develop this kind of robot, and completed it in 1989.

PTEROA 150 weighs 220kg, can stay submerged for three hours and has an exploration range of up to 16km. Development of underwater robots continued over the next several years. The most advanced underwater robot to date, r2D4, is able to reach deep sea levels of 4,000m, and has observed the Myojin-sho submarine volcano, the mid-oceanic ridge in the Indian Ocean, and other phenomena occurring on the floors of the world’s oceans.

Investigative robots for freshwater are also being developed, with the Tan-tan model actively conducting exploratory missions in Lake Biwa since 2000. And with the PTEROA 150 on the Komaba II Campus, we now have underwater robots flying through the air!

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