First Time in China! Our School Participated In Research of Intelligent Underwater Robots to Explore "Earth Tears"

The waters of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are called the tears of the earth by some literary works. How salty are earth’s tears? The intelligent underwater robot that our school participated in can answer this question. Recently, our school, Qinghai University, and Sanjiangyuan Research Institute formed a joint scientific research team to go to the major crossroad of the Tang-Tibet Ancient Road on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The team used intelligent underwater robots to detect and collect the water quality information of Kuhaiba (Doucuo), and Heliqiao (Longyang gorge), researching the characteristics of the waterways and road network in Sanjiangyuan District. This is the first time for China to use intelligent underwater robots to detect and collect water quality information in plateau waters, which is of pioneering significance.

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known as the “Asian Water Tower”, is the source of many major rivers in Asia and one of the most stringent areas for water management and water environmental protection in China. Due to the warming and humidification of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the salinity of the plateau lake area has decreased. In recent years, the state has continuously increased the environmental protection of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. To analyze the impact of plateau warming on atmospheric circulation, and promote environmental protection and restoration of water ecology, our state organized the experiment to ensure the safety of the water ecological environment of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

In the past, using the traditional artificial methods to detect underwater stratification on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau was time-consuming and laborious. Using ships to deliver and re-detect the detection equipment at different designated locations was affected by weather and other factors. On top of that, they only obtained water quality information for a few locations. While the underwater robot detection is small, it can collect the water quality data in the navigation range in real time, which makes up for the shortage of manual fixed-point collection data measurement methods and saves manpower and material resources.

The intelligent underwater robot used in this experiment was jointly developed by Professor SUN Yushan’s team of the Key Laboratory of Underwater Robot Technology of HEU and Professor LI Tiejian’s team of Water and Sediment Science and Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering of Tsinghua University. The intelligent underwater robot has a high degree of autonomy and can perform detailed underwater hydrological information detection operations for a long time.

Under the guidance of Prof. SUN Yushan, the six members of the team detected hydrological information of different depths in the specified waters within three days, and obtained the topography, flow rate, temperature, salinity, turbidity, pH value and other important hydrological water quality information at one time. In this test, the navigation system of the underwater robot has withstood the test of the plateau lake. The one-hour continuous positioning error is less than 8%, and the intelligent underwater robot can work continuously for more than 20 hours. The success of the plateau scientific research has accumulated experience for the environmental monitoring of plateau water quality, laying a foundation for the application of underwater intelligent unmanned equipment in the field of high altitude scientific research.

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