Oceanic research steps into the future as sci-fi vessel SeaOrbiter gets funding

The world’s most futuristic-looking research vessel could soon be setting sail after it met its crowdfunding goal of €325,000.

Designed by marine architect Jacques Rougerie, SeaOrbiter will drift with oceanic currents to explore areas of the ocean that have never been studied before.

SeaOrbiter is designed to address the shortage of ocean research that has been undertaken. 90% of the ocean is still unexplored, and it is estimated that two thirds of marine species are yet to be discovered.

Looking like a moveable version of the Operation Hennessey Underwater SeaLab from the film the Life Aquatic, the vessel features a vertical wind turbine and solar panels to generate power; an 18.5m high lookout post; a diving room and wet lab; a modular laboratory, medical and fitness areas; underwater bunks and pressurised living quarters and a variety of underwater dive pits.

SeaOrbiter is also kitted out with a range of support vessels and subsea exploration devices, including a diving drone capable of exploring the oceanic abyss at depths up to 6,000m – far deeper than it is possible for humans to travel.

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First and foremost, SeaOrbiter is a research vessel with the capability to gather and analyse data. However, it will also serve as a multimedia communications platform, churning out educational programming that has been entirely shot and edited onboard. And that’s not all: the pressurised living areas also enable SeaOrbiter to function as a space simulator.

The vessel is uniquely able to house a crew of 18 – 22 people to live onboard for long periods of time in remote areas of the ocean. Typically expeditions would last for three to six months, although the crew could remain onboard for much longer if required.

The crew would be made up of six ship operators, four scientific researchers, two multimedia operators and six ‘aquanauts’ developing research programmes.  But they won’t just be adrift and unsupported – a shore-based team will remain in constant touch to collect data and ensure everything goes smoothly.

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In a sense, SeaObiter has been more than forty years in the making. The vessel’s designer and champion Jacques Rougerie has a long-standing background in marine design, and has been developing undersea structures for decades.

His 1973 project with NASA to develop an underwater research village has been instrumental in our view of undersea living, and he has produced several landmark vessels for oceanographic exploration. Rougerie seems to have been working towards SeaOrbiter for most of his career, but only now has the technology come of age.

The project was funded through French crowdfunding website Kiss Kiss Bank Bank, with 664 people handing over between €10 and €40,000+ to raise a total of €344,650. In a video uploaded to the SeaOrbiter website, Rougerie thanked his supporters. He said: “We registered more than 600 contributors, including 20 big donors and one family who highly contributed to it”.

Now SeaOrbiter has received funding the challenge of building it can start. Rougerie expects construction to take two years, so by 2016 we could be following the launch of this remarkable vessel.


Images courtesy of SeaOrbiter.


UK government pledges extra £250m to bring ‘superfast’ broadband to rural towns

An extra £250m of funding has been allocated to provide hard-to-reach towns and cities in the UK with access to superfast broadband.

The announcement was made as part of the UK government’s aim to give 95% of homes and businesses in the country access to superfast broadband by 2017 – and is in addition to the £1.2bn already invested by central and local authorities.

Local projects will be able to access funding from the £250m pot – with some of the most hard-to-reach locations set to benefit the most.

The £1.2bn that has already been invested has been split across three different areas. In total £790m has been pledged to extend superfast broadband, £150m to provide high-speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities across the country and £150m to improve the quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services.

The bulk of the additional funding, £184.34m, has gone to English towns and cities with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland receiving no more than £20m each.


View Larger Map

You can see which areas of the UK have been given the most funding on the interactive map above

The UK government claims that the current rural programme will deliver returns for £20 for every £1 invested and says that faster broadband will create an extra 56,000 jobs by 2024.

It claims that more than 10,000 homes and businesses are now gaining access to superfast broadband every week, with the ambitious figure of 40,000 per week being the target for just a few months time.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said the government wants to ensure that Britain is one of the best countries in the world for broadband and make sure the country is not “left behind in the digital slow lane.”

She said: “Superfast broadband will benefit everyone – whether they need it for work, to do homework or simply to download music or films. Thousands of homes and businesses now have access and it is helping people with their everyday tasks.”

However figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown that in 2013 there were four million homes in the UK that are still not connected to the internet – let alone having access to superfast broadband – proving there is a long way to go if the 2017 target is to be met.

In total 21 million, 83%, of households in the UK have access to the internet which is 3% higher than the figures for 2012.

The ‘Superfast Britain’ initiative is being run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport with the aim of aiding business growth and job creation.


Image courtesy of the Sean MacEntee via Flickr.