Robotic Snakes are the Stuff of Undersea Nightmares

By George Dvorsky on at

Introducing the Eelume robot, a self-propelled aquatic mechanical snake designed for subsea inspection and repair work.

We humans are ill-suited for work on the ocean floor. Robots, on the other hand, are perfect for the task, especially if they emulate something that actually lives in the sea.

This mechanical snake is a collaboration between The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Kongsberg Maritime (the fine ocean-faring folks who discovered that Loch Ness Monster prop a few weeks ago) and Statoil, a Norwegian oil and gas multinational.

The Eelume robot is designed for inspection work and basic repair jobs on the sea floor. This mechanical critter should drive down operational costs and increase productivity; they’re set to replace expensive vessels, including large and unwieldy autonomous underwater vehicles. They’ll be able to slither and slink their way into areas that are difficult to access with existing technology.

The flexible and versatile snakes will swim around undersea equipment, performing inspection duties and simple maintenance and repair tasks, such as cleaning, adjusting valves, and other chores. The bots will work around the clock, attending to issues as they arise. They can swim on their own (like a real sea snake), or use thrusters for propulsion.


Robotic Snakes Are the Stuff of Undersea Nightmares


Image: NUST.

The designers haven’t disclosed many details about their aquatic worker snake, but these things don’t appear to be self-powered. Those dangling wires could pose a serious limitation in terms of their range, not to mention problems with tangling. But looking at the concept video, it’s clear that the designers would like to eventually do away with the power cables altogether. [Kongsberg Maritime]