di Davide Marchetta
Livorno, August 27 - A robot that can research archaeological sites deep beneath the ocean waters has been completed in a joint project between the universities of Florence and Pisa, designers announced Tuesday. The autonomous underwater robot, dubbed Typhoon, is expected to assess, monitor, and ultimately help protect Italy's historical heritage lying at the base of the seas which surround the peninsula. Three versions of the sophisticated Typhoon robot have been developed, equipped with systems that can collect and process photographic and sonar images of significant archaeological artifacts which the robot is designed to recognize. These images will subsequently be used to create 3-D reconstructions by experts on land. The 1.8-million-euro project, which involved 50 researchers, has already been sent on its first mission: locating and documenting Second World War wreckage located about 1.5 kilometres off the port of Livorno, at a depth of 20 meters. The robots will help to pinpoint significant sites for researchers, said Andrea Caiti, deputy director of the Enrico Piaggio research centre at the University of Pisa, which specializes in automation, bioengineering, and robotics. It will also help researchers ward off divers who raid undersea sites including shipwrecks, and may have applications in environmental protection, he added.