The autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), known as the “Explorer”, is capable of diving to depths of 5,000 metres and travelling over 100 km under metres of thick ice, Xinhua news agency reported.
The AUV, built by Canadian firm International Submarine Engineering (ISE), will arrive in Tasmania in early 2017.
The robot will be programmed to collect physical data from floating sheets of ice along the coast of Antarctica. This will help scientists reveal some of the mysteries of the Antarctic environment, including its impact on the global climate.
The AUV is funded by the Antarctic Gateway Partnership, an $18 million initiative that aims to provide new insights into the role of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in the global climate system, and by the Australian Maritime College (AMC), a specialist institute of the University of Tasmania.
AMC Principal Professor Neil Bose said the ISE contract would put Tasmania in a great position to become a global leader for underwater robotics.
“We are very pleased to have awarded the contract for our new flagship AUV to ISE. Their Explorer AUV is the most capable in the world for use under sea ice and will allow us to capitalise on the robotic age of Antarctic exploration,” Bose said in a media release on Monday.
“The Explorer will join a fleet of similar underwater robots in a $750,000 state-of-the-art facility due to open at AMC in spring 2016. This world-class AUV hub will put AMC and Tasmania at the cutting-edge of research in this field and enable us to undertake a range of academic, defence and industry partnered projects.”