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Underwater Drones Join Hunt for Trillions in Mineral Riches Trapped on Ocean's Floor

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A Kongsberg Maritime underwater drone.

The seabed mining industry is using underwater drones to map the ocean floor in the hunt for precious minerals worth trillions.

Credit: Kongsberg Maritime

The nascent seabed mining industry is using underwater drones from companies like Kongsberg Maritime to map the ocean floor in the hunt for manganese and other precious minerals worth trillions.

Kongsberg's underwater automated vehicles can capture seabed images with a resolution superior to surface-ship sonar, and its latest model takes acoustic, laser, and photographic measurements.

Kongsberg's Richard Mills predicts next-generation drones will have more in-mission processing capability, including automated object detection for real-time quantification of manganese nodules.

Mining company DeepGreen Metals’ Gerard Barron said automated vehicles are the only solution for tapping the ocean floor's mineral wealth. He added that drones will be excellent tools for environmental studies of potential mining areas, for tracking and monitoring mining apparatus, and for compiling data on dust plumes that can threaten deep-sea life.

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