25-1 Seafloor mining: China’s „Diving Dragon“ program

The 4 submarines of the CAS Shenyang Institute of Automation come in the shape of clown fishes which are 3,5 m long and weigh 1,5 tons each. They can dive to about 4500 m depth for nearly 30 hours and have made already dozens of dives in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. 

In 2001, China signed in for five oceanic seabed exploration contract areas focussing on three types of resources such as polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts. First, exploration was done by rented submarines. From 2011 on, an own „submarine dragon“ program was started. Diving Dragon III has a built-in magnetometer at the fishtail, which is particularly important for resource exploration. In addition, forward-looking sonar perception of obstacles are combined with an inertial guidance system, calculated from the own position, perceived by an altimeter and a depth gauge, and the prescribed navigation path. Thus, autonomous “mountain crossing” in the dark deep sea is possible. The ship sends its position and working status information to the mother ship through an acoustic communication system on its back.

Diving Dragon IV has made its first exploration and is designed for a depth of 6000 m. Base stations on the seafloor to achieve cluster detection of deep-sea resources are now under planning.

China Science News, January 25, 2022

CAS Shenyang Institute of Automation
25-1 Seafloor mining: China’s „Diving Dragon“ program
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