Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: Engineering prepares a pool-laboratory for underwater robots

A group of researchers from UC Mechanical and Metallurgical Engineering developed a laboratory-pool for low-cost underwater robots, which they hope to promote research on the Chilean seabed.

It is a cylindrical structure that measures 5.5 by 3 meters in diameter and high, respectively, made of steel plates and with windows to view the tests of the equipment inside.

“Before we had a basic pool, like the ones installed in houses, which was one meter high. It allowed us to test the operation of the equipment, but not the algorithms we were operating ”, shared Giancarlo Troni, UC Engineering academic and who is leading the project.

The researcher pointed out that with the pool-laboratory, which will be inaugurated in September, the robots will be able to see through their sensors and cameras. In addition, he said, they will have the opportunity to know how they would navigate in the ocean, allowing to simulate the same conditions of the seabed.

“Before we had a basic pool, like the ones installed in houses, which was one meter high. It allowed us to test the operation of the equipment, but not the algorithms that we were operating “- Giancarlo Troni, UC Engineering academic

“The height of the new pond allows us to operate as one would in the ocean. Being three meters from the seabed allows us to make measurements, three-dimensional reconstructions or monitor how the seabed is changing ”, Troni said.

The specialist in underwater robotics added that thanks to this structure they will be able to work “24/7”, without depending on time or a ship to go to investigate in the middle of the ocean . This, he indicated, facilitates the development of different algorithms that can be used in future studies.

The idea for the project started at the end of 2018 and its design was carried forward the following year. However, the social outbreak and the pandemic prevented the pool-laboratory from being ready in 2020, forcing it to resume its manufacture only last March.

“Now, we can say that we are soon to be fully operational and to carry out the first tests with the underwater robots developed in Engineering” , highlighted Giancarlo Troni.

The idea for the project started at the end of 2018 and its design was carried forward the following year. However, the social outbreak and the pandemic prevented the pool-laboratory from being ready in 2020, forcing it to resume its manufacture only last March.


In parallel, the professor pointed out that this installation will allow Chilean engineers to be part of the international concert on the exploration of the oceans, where less than 5% has been investigated.

“In the country we have an important scientific team that is working in this area, such as the group of the Millennium Institute of Oceanography, of which I am part. However, engineers have the challenge of advancing in this field, to support Chilean scientific work ” , added the expert.

The UC academic has been working on underwater robotics in Chile for more than five years and more than ten years on international expeditions, in tests to create three-dimensional maps of the ocean floor and in findings of geothermal sources in the Gulf of California in Mexico, among other collaborations. .

The pool-laboratory is supported by Ingeniería 2030 de Corfo, FONDECYT and the Renners Coatings company. In addition, the project involves postgraduate students, one recently graduated , one with a doctorate, five with a master’s degree, and three project engineers.

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