Design of an Autonomous Under-Ice Exploration System
Marc Hildebrandt, Jan Albiez, Marius Wirtz, Philipp Kloss, Jens Hilljegerdes, Frank Kirchner
In MTS/IEEE Oceans 2013 San Diego, (OCEANS-2013), 23.9.2013, San Diego, CA, IEEE, pages 1-6, Sep/2013.
Exploration of under-ice environments has gained importance in the last decades. Reasons for this range from political (extension of the exclusive economic zone) to scientific (researching climate change, marine biology). The work in this paper had yet another key motivation: exploration of Jupiter’s ice-moon Europa. Planetologists predict an ocean of liquid water below an ice shield with 3-15 kilometers thickness. This huge ocean (estimated depth: 100 kilometers) is one of the most likely places for extraterrestrial live in our solar system, and thus of high interest. The project “Europa-Explorer” is a pilot survey for future missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa. Its scope is the design of a fully integrated autonomous underice exploration system, which will be prototypically built and tested in arctic environments on earth. This paper will describe this design process and the robotic system which will be build in the course of 2013-2014. Besides the application on extraterrestrial missions such a system could be highly interesting for research on earth, especially, since the first test prototype will be build for a terrestrial environment.