The Russian autonomous underwater vehicle “Vityaz” dived to the bottom of the Mariana Trench to a depth of 10,028 meters. For the first time in history, control was completely carried out through the hydroacoustic channel. “Vityaz” is the first underwater vehicle to operate autonomously at the extreme depths of the World Ocean. “Vityaz” carried out mapping, photo and video shooting of the seabed; studied the parameters of the marine environment. The submersion took place on May 8, 2020 at 22 hours 34 minutes, Moscow time. The duration of the mission, excluding diving and surfacing, was more than 3 hours. A pennant with the symbols of the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day was delivered to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
The project was carried out by joint efforts of the Russian shipbuilders, scientific teams of the Russian Academy of Sciences with the support of Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects and the Pacific Fleet. The “Vityaz” vehicle received its name in honor of the legendary Soviet research vessel, which made an outstanding contribution to the study of the World Ocean. Since 1949, for 18 years, RV “Vityaz” had been the flagship of the USSR expeditionary fleet.
According to the report of the press service of Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects, the “Vityaz" complex includes an autonomous underwater vehicle, a deep-sea bottom station, and control center equipment. The naval equipment of the complex provides information exchange of the carrier vessel with the underwater vehicle and the bottom station in real time via the hydroacoustic channel. The complex consists entirely of components of domestic production. Thanks to the use of artificial intelligence elements in the control system of the apparatus, it can independently bypass obstacles along the course, find a way out of a limited space and solve other intellectual problems.
Georgy Vinogradov, a senior researcher at the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a repeated participant in diving in the deep-submergence vehicles "Mir", made a comment on the event for rgo.ru:
- I believe that the use of this technology will open up many new opportunities for scientific research. Underwater vehicles are now an obvious trend in ocean exploration. Of course, manned underwater vehicles provide very valuable information. But unmanned devices are certainly safer, especially at such incredible depths. They are usually controlled via a fiber-optic cable, that is, the device is “tied” to the carrier ship or underwater base. "Vityaz" works without the optic-fiber cable. It is controlled via a hydroacoustic channel, that is, an underwater "speakerphone". The device is completely autonomous. Each of the ways of penetrating into the depth - with the help of manned, remotely operated and unmanned vehicles - has its own strengths and weaknesses. So each one needs to be developed; and on one of these paths, a big step has just been taken forward.
“Vityaz-D” is equipped with echo sounders, sonar navigation and communications equipment, side-scan sonars, has external video cameras, lighting equipment and special research equipment. All this allows “Vityaz” to conduct search and bathymetric survey of the area, sampling, sonar survey of the bottom topography, and measurements of hydrophysical parameters of the marine environment.
Diving into the Mariana Trench
January 23, 1960 - the first submersion of a man to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the “Trieste” bathyscaphe was made by US Navy lieutenant Don Walsh and researcher Jacques Piccard. Submersion depth - 10 918 m.
March 24, 1995 - Japanese probe "Kaiko". Depth - 10 911.4 m.
May 31, 2009 - autonomous underwater vehicle "Nereus". Reached a depth of 10 902 m.
On March 26, 2012, filmmaker James Cameron dived in a single-seat “Deepsea Challenger”. He reached the "Challenger Deep" - a section of the trench at a depth of 10898 meters.
May 8, 2020 - the autonomous underwater vehicle “Vityaz” reached a depth of 10,028 meters.