India is making considerable efforts to unveil the mysteries tucked in the deep sea waters. Under the mega ocean mission ‘Samudrayan’, the nation aims to send a team of experts into the deep sea to carry out various deep underwater studies.

India’s first manned ocean mission was launched by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). As part of the mission, a self propelled manned submersible viz ‘MATSYA-6000’ is being developed to carry 3 human beings to a water depth of 6,000 meters in the ocean with a suite of scientific sensors and tools for deep ocean exploration.

“The manned submersible will allow scientific personnel to observe and understand unexplored deep sea areas by direct interventions. Further, it will enhance the capability for deep sea man rated vehicle development,” Minister of State (I/C) for M/o Earth Sciences and M/o Science & Technology, Dr. Jitendra Singh said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha.

National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), an autonomous institute under MoES, has developed 6,000 m depth rated Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and various other underwater instruments, the written reply further stated.

Other state-of-art instruments for underwater exploration by NIOT include Autonomous Coring System (ACS), Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) and Deep Sea Mining System (DSM) for the exploration of deep sea.

With Mission ‘Samudrayaan’, India Joined Elite Group

With the launch of the unique ocean mission ‘Samudrayaan’ in October 2021, India joined the elite club of nations such as the USA, Russia, Japan, France, and China to have niche technology and vehicles to carry out subsea activities.

While launching the sea exploration initiative, Union Minister of State Dr Jitendra Singh mentioned, “This niche technology shall facilitate Ministry of Earth Sciences, MoES in carrying out deep ocean exploration of the non-living resources such as polymetallic manganese nodules, gas hydrates, hydro-thermal sulphides, and cobalt crusts, located at a depth between 1000 and 5500 meters.”

The preliminary design of the manned submersible ‘MATSYA 6000’ is completed and realization of the vehicle has been started along with various organizations including ISRO, IITM, and DRDO roped-in to support the initiative, the Union Minister added.

Deciphering ‘MATSYA-6000’: The State-of-Art Submersible Vehicle

Developed indigenously, MATSYA-6000 is a manned submersible vehicle. It will facilitate the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) in conducting deep ocean exploration.

The sea trials of 500 meter rated shallow water version of the maritime vehicle are expected to take place in the last quarter of 2022 and the submersible will be ready for trials by the second quarter of 2024.

Further, work on advancing technologies like metallurgy, energy storage, underwater navigation, and manufacturing facilities have been underway for developing more efficient, reliable, and safe manned submersibles.

Why Is Underway Vehicle Technology Vital?

The underwater vehicles are essential for carrying out subsea activities such as high-resolution bathymetry, biodiversity assessment, geoscientific observation, search activities, salvage operation, and engineering support. With improved manoeuvring and excellent vision systems, the unmanned underwater vehicles become the loyal companion for researchers to get a feel of direct physical presence and to get better intervention capability.

With the advancing subsea technologies, the recent Fendouzhe manned submersible developed by China in 2020 has touched ~11000m water depths, the deepest to date.

The Mega Deep Ocean Mission

The Indian government had approved the Deep Ocean Mission (DOM) to be implemented under the aegis of the Ministry of Earth Sciences at a total budget of Rs. 4,077 Crore for a period of 5 years. The estimated cost for the first phase for the 3 years (2021-2024) would be Rs.2823.4 crore. Deep Ocean Mission will be a mission mode project to support the Blue Economy Initiatives of the Government of India.

With an emphasis on the development of deep-sea technology, the Deep Ocean Mission consists of development of manned Submersible rated for 6,000 metre water depth along with technologies for deep-sea mining, exploration of deep-sea mineral resources, and marine biodiversity.

Uncovering The Uncovered

Oceans, which cover 70 percent of the globe, remain a key part of our life. About 95 percent of the Deep Ocean remains unexplored. For India, with its three sides surrounded by the oceans and around 30 percent of the nation’s population living in coastal areas and coastal regions play a major economic factor. It supports fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, livelihoods, and blue trade.

For India, there lies a unique maritime position, a 7517 km long coastline, which is home to nine coastal states and 1,382 islands. The Government of India’s vision of ‘New India’ highlights the Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth.