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Robot from Oporto breaks record in flooded caves exploration

A team of researchers from the Institute for Systems Engineering and Computers, Technology and Science (INESC TEC) has broken the world depth record in the exploration of the world's deepest natural cave by managing, for the first time, to take an autonomous underwater vehicle to 450 meters.

This achievement was accomplished in the "Hranice Abyss", in Czechia, after years of research and numerous exploration missions at the site. INESC TEC researchers Alfredo Martins, Carlos Almeida, Eduardo Soares, Pedro André Peixoto and Ricardo Pereira joined, at the beginning of this month, a new expedition to explore the world's deepest natural flooded cave, making its 3D map and collecting data on water parameters.

Alfredo Martins, also a lecturer at the Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto (ISEP), explains that "the cave, thought to be more than 900 meters deep, has been explored using divers, up to 200 meters". The most recent mission took place under the Unexup project and, for the first time, it was possible to "successfully explore the cave to 450 meters and obtain a detailed map, something that was not possible before", he reveals.

Note that the previous record belonged to another underwater robot that had dived to 404 meters of the cave, but it has now been beaten by UX-1Neo and the researchers from the Porto Institute.

INESC-TEC points out that UX-1Neo is one of the most technologically advanced underwater robots in the world and "performs exploration missions completely autonomously" with precise positioning and "unique features that can be used depending on the mission or its risk".

Through this project, INESC-TEC intends to "create a new mine mapping service, based on a new class of autonomous underwater robots with the ability to explore up to a thousand meters deep, obtaining relevant information such as the structural state and map of them (allowing to know if there were landslides or other problems) and important geological information to determine the existence of mineral resources of economic interest, which otherwise would be more difficult and dangerous to obtain or would have higher costs.

Unexup is financed by EIT Raw Materials, of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, to the tune of 2.9 million euros.



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