Aquanaut Underwater Transformer
Photo credit: Ken Kiefer via IEEE Spectrum
Think of Aquanaut as a real-life underwater Transformers robot, as it can turn from autonomous electric submarine to a humanoid-like machine. It’s designed for deep-sea repairs and other tasks that traditional robots may struggle with that are too dangerous for human divers. Currently, it’s limited to swimming pool tests, but the ultimate goal is ocean expeditions and active deployment, where it will be used to service deep-sea components of oil and gas-mining rigs. Read more for two videos and additional information.

Aquanaut is being developed by a startup called Houston Mechatronics Inc. (HMI), and the company wants to combine torpedo-like submersibles and boxy remotely operated machines into a single robot. Nic Radford, HMI co-founder and chief technology officer, spent 14-years working on advanced robotics projects at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

“I’ll grant you that getting into space is harder than getting underwater. But space is a pristine environment. Underwater, things are extraordinarily dynamic. I haven’t decided yet whether it’s 10 times harder or 50 times harder for robots working underwater than it is in space,” said Radford.