Resource: Helping DEME-GSR measure deep-sea mining efficiencies

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The Patania II rover being winched into the sea for the DEME-GSR deep sea mining research operation - ITS


At 13:30 Pacific time on April 18th, 2021, world-leading marine engineering firm DEME-GSR deployed the Patania II. This 25-ton nodule-collecting robot was built to mine material-rich ‘nodules’ from the seabed, at depths of 4.5km below sea level.

This world first was designed as part of a research trial to determine the viability and environmental impact of deep-sea mining, specifically for polymetallic nodules.

DEME-GSR approached ITS during the design phase of the Patania II, for support in measuring nodule collection efficiency and the environmental impact of the rover.

Read on to learn about the project, the challenges faced by both us at ITS and DEME-GSR and the solution that allowed us to get DEME-GSR the result they needed.

The Challenge

DEME-GSR were looking to research the efficiencies of their Patania II rover. There were two main questions to be answered:

  1. Could the rover efficiently collect polymetallic nodules from the sea bed?
  2. What was the environmental impact?

As the rover was operating at depths of up to 4.5km below sea level, DEME-GSR needed a reliable solution that could give them real-time data to answer these questions. The only existing densitometry equipment capable of operating at these depths at the time was nuclear-source. As real and potential environmental impacts were significant factors in this trial, DEME-GSR required a reliable, non-nuclear densitometry solution.

View from the front of the Patania II looking over a nodule field on the sea bed - ITS

The solution

DEME-GSR engaged our services to develop a non-nuclear deep-sea package that could give them the data they needed in real-time and also handle the extreme pressures found at these depths.

We already had non-nuclear solutions for ambient pressures and now needed to develop something for the sea bed, however, required a complete rethinking of how we packaged these solutions.

We developed a series of custom sensors and probes to monitor the volume of polymetallic nodules the Patania II was collecting, and determine the sediment plume generated by the mining activities.

These sensors and probes were linked to our patented p2+ instrument. The p2+ converted highly sensitive analogue signals coming from the sensors into digital tomographic data, which in turn was transmitted via a digital network cable to scientists on the control vessel at the surface.

The p2+was protected by a custom housing, called the E-POD which protected it from the harsh environment.

A cross-section of the Patania II Rover showing the location of a sensor and a probe - ITS


The result

After two campaigns, the Patania II trial is now complete.

Using our bespoke tomography systems, DEME-GSR were able to accurately measure data in real-time, collected by sensors and probes on the rover 4.5 km below sea level. This allowed them to measure nodule collection, pre-empt blockages and determine sediment plume generation.

They now have reliable data to inform on the environmental impact of deep-sea mining activities using rovers like the Patania II.

Want to know more?

Download the Full DEME-GSR Case Study


    And for further reading on the subject of sediment plume, see the  ‘abyssal turbidity-current sediment plumes‘ paper from researchers at MIT.


    Type of Resource: Product Sheet | Filetype: .pdf | Filesize: 2.9 MB


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