UMD Launches Unmanned Submarine

By KBJR News 1

August 6, 2010 Updated Sep 21, 2009 at 10:28 PM CDT

An unmanned watercraft is lurking in the depths of Lake Superior.

The submarine, launched last week by UMD, is being used to gather data about the Lake.

"We're looking at distribution of temperature and conductivity within the water," said Jay Austin, UMD assistant professor.

With a few keystrokes, Austin commands the underwater vessel with his computer.

"One of the really neat things about this, is this vehicle can be out there in all sorts of conditions for nearly a month on a single set of batteries," Austin said.

"Experts say the sub is roughly six feet long, it has its own power supply, and it also communicates with researchers.

"It's simultaneously very exciting and very nerve wracking in the sense that it (the sub) calls us...we don't call it."

Right now the submersible is about six miles off shore and is diving approximately 330 feet below the water's surface. Austin says the sub provides a new way to look at the lake.

"We can look at how the temperature structure changes both in space and in time at the same time, which we really haven't been able to do before," he said.

Down the road, UMD is proposing to put various sensors on the sub to measure other Lake variables.

"One of the ideas that we have with this, not necessarily in Lake Superior, but in the great Lakes as a Whole is...helping to improve our monitoring capabilities to insure the safety of drinking water," said Austin.

The sub was paid for with money from the National Science Foundation.
Austin says the watercraft surfaces periodically during it's mission, and asks lake-goers to leave the vessel alone if it is seen.