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Hitler's Lost Sub
NOVA News Minutes
Homeland Security Submarine

(running time 01:31)

June 16, 2003

NARRATOR: If this came at you while you were swimming in the ocean, you'd probably turn and sprint for the beach. But subs like these may one day patrol our shores and keep us safe. What looks like a torpedo, the navy calls an autonomous underwater vehicle, or AUV.

Mark Patterson (Virginia Institute of Marine Science): AUVs are essentially swimming computers. They're underwater robots. They're not tethered to the surface. They can swim 24/7, under all kinds of wind and wave and weather conditions.

NARRATOR: Some were recently used to hunt for ocean mines in the war with Iraq. Soon they'll take some of the risk out of submarine work. As shown on PBS's NOVA, German submarines sank thousands of ships during World War II. But by the end of the war improved radar made them easy to find, and the life expectancy of a German submariner was barely 60 days. Tomorrow's subs will have help.

Mark Patterson (Virginia Institute of Marine Science): In the future when AUVs are deployed from submarines, they will be able to travel into areas where the sub commander may not wish to risk taking his boat, and gather intelligence, perhaps all the way up to the waterline, in a way that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

NARRATOR: They work by sending sound waves into the ocean. When the sound waves return a computer program turns them into an image.

Mark Patterson (Virginia Institute of Marine Science): And that program can learn what things look like and it gets better with time. So we can basically train AUVs in the future to recognize everything they see.

NARRATOR: Aside from gathering intelligence, AUVs can scan the hulls of incoming trade ships for suspicious cargo. I'm Brad Kloza.

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