The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology recently unveiled three new unmanned deep-sea exploration vessels at its headquarters in Yokosuka.
The exploration vessels are designed to independently explore preplanned routes deep underwater, untethered to support ships.
The agency said Thursday this is the first time three such vessels have been developed at the same time.
One of the vessels, Yume-Iruka, which measures five meters long and weighs 2.7 tons, will be used to search for seafloor hydrothermal deposits, where scarce metals are believed to accumulate.
The vessel will measure seabed topography with 10 to 100 times greater precision than measurements in the past, to detect hot water at depths of up to 3,000 meters.
Yume-Iruka, which cost 800 million yen to develop, will begin operation in fiscal 2013.
The other two vessels--Jinbei, which is four meters long and weighs 1.7 tons, and Otohime, which is 2-1/2 meters long and weighs 0.85 tons--will measure ocean carbon dioxide levels. The development costs of the two were about 900 million yen and 200 million yen, respectively.
Both vessels will start trial observations by the end of this year.