Katie Skinner is a SSF from Princeton University working with Mike Purcell in the Applied Physics and Ocean Engineering department. Her project is to design a lightweight REMUS, which stands for remote environmental monitoring units. It is an autonomous underwater vehicle with a range of uses including ocean exploration, environmental monitoring, and scientific sampling. She is working with the REMUS 6000, which is a deep ocean vehicle that goes up to 6000 meters. It is autonomous and untethered, so missions are preprogrammed for the vehicle, which then follows these directions on its own.
Her main goal this summer is to extend the endurance of the REMUS 6000 to up to 36 hours, a 50% increase in endurance. This will allow the vehicle to carry out longer and more efficient missions to search over larger areas or collect more images or samples. The longer it can stay in the water, the fewer times it has to be recovered and relaunched to complete a given mission.
Solving this problem starts with reducing the weight of the vehicle. Once it weighs less, the syntactic foam that provides buoyancy can be cut back to decrease the diameter and size. Cutting back the foam we will reduce drag, leading to increased efficiency while maintaining stability, security, and control of the vehicle. To reduce the weight of different components of REMUS, she is working from a solidworks model to go through different parts of the whole assembly. Potential changes include looking for materials with a higher strength-to-weight ratio or higher buoyancy. In addition, integrating more recent designs to some instruments (the original 6000 was designed about a decade ago) results in smaller instruments. Changing various sensor attachments and supports also cuts down on weight. With a smaller vehicle, some of these parts can be reduced. Overall, her project entails developing new technological methods for sampling and surveying, a frontier for oceanography.