If you’ve ever wanted to explore the bottom of the ocean, your options have been limited to tethered, unmanned exploration craft, or small submersible vessels. Both of which can be slow to operate and capabilities are quite limited. Boeing has recently added a third option for deep water exploration with the Echo Seeker, an autonomous submarine that can go on three-day, independent journeys to uncover more mysteries of the deep. While this vessel will allow us to explore underwater terrain with expanded capabilities, the technology still faces a number of challenges.
Image Source: Wired
“When it’s at the bottom of the ocean, the Echo Seeker will have very limited contact with its controllers—there’s no GPS, radio, or line of sight communications. Its acoustic communication system runs, at best, around 300 baud—equal to the modems people used in the 1980s. That means the vehicle must be able to complete all its tasks—surveying or searching or exploring—on its own. Because the ocean floor is in many places poorly mapped, the Echo Seeker must be smart enough to see things like mountains or canyons and avoid them as necessary.”
Boeing has yet to publicize the cost to build or own an Ecoseeker, but oil and gas exploration firms, NOAA and the U.S. Navy are all said to be potential clients.