Development and Field Trials of the Nereus Hybrid Underwater Robotic Vehicle for Global Oceanographic Science to 11,000 m Depth

Louis L. Whitcomb
Director, Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics
Johns Hopkins University Adjunct Scientist, Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Friday, Mar. 5, 2010, 3:00pm
Chase 130

This talk reports the development the Nereus hybrid underwater robotic vehicle (HROV) and the results its first deep field trials. In May/June 2009 Nereus successfully performed scientific observation and sampling operations at hadal depths of 10,903 m on a NSF sponsored expedition to the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench – the deepest place on Earth. In October 2009, the vehicle successfully performed autonomous survey and teleoperated sampling on a NASA ASTEP sponsored expedition to the Mid-Cayman Rise. The Nereus underwater vehicle is designed to perform scientific survey and sampling to the full depth of the ocean – significantly deeper than the depth capability of all other present-day operational vehicles. For comparison, the second deepest underwater vehicle currently operational worldwide can dive to 7,000 m maximum depth. The Nereus vehicle project is lead by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with collaboration of the Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. This talk reports a brief overview of the Nereus vehicle design, and reviews the initial results of the dives conducted on these expeditions, including two dives to more than 10,900 m depth.


Louis L. Whitcomb completed his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees at Yale University in 1984 and 1992, respectively. His research focuses on the dynamics and control of robot systems – including industrial, medical, and underwater robots. Whitcomb is a principal investigator of the Nereus Project which recently developed a robotic vehicle capable of performing unmanned oceanographic research missions to the deepest depths of the world’s oceans. Whitcomb has received numerous teaching awards, and has been awarded a National Science Foundation Career Award and an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award. He has numerous patents in the field of robotics, and is a Senior Member of the IEEE.  He is founding Director of the JHU Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics. Whitcomb is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, with joint appointment in the Department of Computer Science, at the Johns Hopkins University’s G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering, and Adjunct Scientist, Department of Applied Ocean Physics and EngineeringWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution.