Wed, Aug 16, 2006 - Page 2 News List

First Taiwanese ROV a breakthrough, researchers say

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Researchers from the National Cheng Kung University and National Sun Yat-sen University yesterday display the nation's very first self-made Remote Operated Underwater Vehicle that researchers from the two schools developed together.

PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL CHENG KUNG UNIVERSITY

Taiwan has developed its first Remote Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV), a tethered undersea robot that can perform a variety of functions, the Ministry of Education announced yesterday.

The robot is the culmination of a ministry-funded research and development program jointly run by National Cheng Kung University and National Sun Yat-sen University.

"This is a first in Taiwan, with all research and development, manufacturing and testing conducted in Taiwan by Taiwanese experts," said Fang Ming-chung (方銘川), a professor in the system and naval mechatronic engineering department of National Cheng Kung University.

Fang, a leading researcher of the program, explained the robot's functions yesterday at a ministry press conference, saying that a fundamental breakthrough in ROV technology had been achieved.

"The uses of such technology are many, including undersea oil and archeological exploration, and acquiring water or soil samples," Fang said, adding that subsequent models could be used for underwater rescue operations, or could have military applications.

"[The ROV] could also be used to plant mines or bombs," he said.

"Although Taiwan is an island with plenty of high-tech industries, there isn't a lot of homegrown underwater technology here," National Sun Yat-sen University president Chang Chung-cheng (張宗仁) said, adding that the ROV is a welcome change in that regard.

So what was the price tag of Taiwan's first ROV?

Fang told the Taipei Times that the ROV cost about NT$15 million (US$458,140).

He said that the cost of producing the robot will eventually save taxpayers in the long-term, as later generations of the ROV will be cheaper to produce than buying or renting foreign models.

A ministry press release said that the ROV operated flawlessly when it was tested in the waters off Penghu on June 19, reaching a depth of 200m.

The ROV program was initiated in 2002, focusing on the unique oceanographic challenges of the Taiwan Strait, including strong currents, precipitous drop-offs, and rough underwater terrain, according to the release.

Fang said the research teams are already working on an even better ROV, but are looking forward to putting the prototype to good use before the next ROV is unveiled, he said.

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