Dr Alex Forrest with the autonomous underwater vehicle at the AMC. Picture: ROSS MARSDEN
DRIVING the Australian Maritime College's new torpedo-like toy is as easy as sitting on a wharf. Alex Forrest, a lecturer at AMC and handler of the $800,000 UBC-Galvia autonomous underwater vehicle, said the vessel was a "semi-intelligent machine".
It was capable of looking after itself under water, Dr Forrest said. Pre-loaded instructions provide the submarine with the locations, depths and speeds it needs to complete a mission. It carries an arsenal of cameras, sonars and environmental sensors to guide it and survey large tracts of water column and seabed. "We sit on the dock and it tries to achieve its mission," Dr Forrest said.
When finished, or if it runs into difficulty, the submarine rises to the surface and notifies supervisors of its location by text message.
The submarine was delivered to AMC, part of the University of Tasmania, two weeks ago from Canada's University of British Columbia -- the former stamping ground of Canadian-born Dr Forrest.
It is headed for the east coast to survey the extent of barren seabed areas created by the centrostephanus sea urchin pest. It will later survey eastern waters to look for the algae responsible for the toxic blooms which last year caused shellfish farm closures.