Okeanos Explorer: US’s Robotic Navigation tech to explore Ocean Floor

The Okeanos Explorer is a ship built by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It departed from the Port Canaveral in Florida on May 14, 2021.

Okeanos Explorer

  • The Okeanos Explorer is on a two-week expedition of ocean exploration.
  • It is to build 3D maps of vast regions of unexplored ocean floors in Hadal Zone.
  • It is to conduct a technology demonstration of autonomous under water vehicle called Orpheus.
  • The Orpheus robot is a new class of submersible robot that will help in identifying the scientific features on the sea floor.


  • Usually, a large high power location finding equipment such as Sonar will be required to navigate in the dark sea bed. Unlike such equipment, Orpheus uses low power system of cameras and lights, along with advanced software. It is lighter than the deep-sea submersibles.
  • It weighs around 250 kilograms.
  • It is designed to nimble (quick and light movement), move easily in a rugged (broken or uneven rocky surface) environment. This kind of environment is usually inaccessible to most of the deep-sea vehicles.
  • Orpheus was designed by JPL and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The JPL also designed the Perseverance river and the Ingenuity helicopter of Mars Mission 2020. The WHOI is conducting the HADEX Programme. HADEX is Hadal Exploration Programme.

Hadal Zone

  • The Hadal Zone is the deepest region of ocean that lies within the oceanic trenches.
  • The Hadal zones are usually found in the depth of 6,000 metres to 11,000 metres.
  • Recently, the Five Deeps Expedition was launched to explore the deepest points of five oceans of the earth.

Navigation used by Orpheus: Visual Inertial Odometry

  • This system works by using system of advanced cameras and pattern matching software. Also, it uses instruments that can measure the orientation and motion precisely.
  • The Visual Inertial Odometry will help Orpheus identify shells, corals and rocks.
  • The Visual Inertial Odometry is also called xVIO. The xVIO will construct 3D maps to navigate.


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