Dr. Mark Moline and members of the Robotic Discovery Laboratories at the University of Delaware traveled to Palau, a small island country about 2000 miles south of Japan, to conduct oceanographic research and assist in the search for downed American aircraft from World War II.

Complex Hydrographic Flows in Palau

  • aircraft
    Over the month-long project the teams located two American aircraft wrecks and twelve shipwrecks
  • coral
    Bathymetric maps of the reef structure surrounding the islands were created using three AUVs and LBL acoustic position transponders
  • AUVs
    Two Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) used to precisely map and measure the seas around the islands of Palau
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In March 2014, Dr. Mark Moline and members of the Robotic Discovery Laboratories traveled to Palau, a small island country about 2000 miles south of Japan, to conduct oceanographic research and assist in the search for downed American aircraft from World War II. Partnered with Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and the BentProp Project, the teams fielded three Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) along with dozens of moored underwater sensors to precisely map and measure the seas around the islands of Palau.

Bathymetric maps of the reef structure surrounding the islands were created using three Kongsberg Remus vehicles along with long baseline (LBL) acoustic position transponders for precise navigation.  The vehicles typically performed industry-standard "mowing-the-lawn" search patters over the reefs while simultaneously collecting high-resolution side-scan sonar imagery. This acoustic image is then used to better understand the distribution of corals and the prominence of the relief over the sea floor.

Along with the vehicles, divers deployed Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCPs) and temperature sensors at sites surrounding the islands. The measurements of current flow from the ADCPs, when combined with the temperature sensor readings provide a good sense of volumetric water motions in and around the complicated underwater terrain.

While the primary mission was collecting scientific data, the vehicles were dual-purposed to assist the BentProp Project's search for missing American aircraft, both known and unknown, in the waters of Palau. During normal oceanographic missions, the side-scan sonar data can also be used to detect man-made objects such as shipwrecks and aircraft wrecks. Over the month-long project, the University of Delaware, Scripps, and BentProp team located two American aircraft wrecks and twelve shipwrecks.

Links

>> Robotic Discovery Laboratories
>> UD’s CEOE members travel to Palau to locate downed WWII planes [The Review]

Featured Faculty

Mark Moline

Mark Moline picture

Director, SMSP Oceanography

 

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School of Marine Science & Policy

Advancing the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments.

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Discovering how geological processes have operated over various time scales to create and influence the planet’s surface environments.

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