Alternate Title

You Can't Catch a Fish with a Robot

Document Type

Ocean Reflections



In this essay I will relate the challenges associated with deep sea ocean exploration as well as the advantages and disadvantages of today’s ocean technologies based on experience with most of these systems. After nearly five decades using robotic vehicles (Remotely Operated Vehicles = ROVs and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles = AUVs) and manned submarines for fish research, I thought it would be appropriate to briefly describe a career spent using these technologies as they were developed. Deep sea ichthyologists cannot effectively catch a swimming fish with a robot even 40 years after the development of the first ROV for deep ocean science investigation, nor can most currently-available manned submarines. There is a continuing debate on the advantages of using robotic machines (cheaper, safer) versus manned machines (more expensive, dangerous) for ocean research. Appropriately designed and operated manned submarines can accomplish considerable ocean exploration that robotic vehicles cannot. Robotic vehicles have their own advantages and science missions that manned vehicles cannot accomplish, but there is a loss in capturing mobile specimens for study and recording important behaviors and ecologies that simply cannot be accomplished with robots. I have written this retrospective on deep ocean research capabilities as my profession, ichthyology, and the world, have lost a major technological asset that can easily be brought back once its value is realized.

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gilmore.bio.page.pdf (160 kB)