Behind The Scenes of The Discovery Channel’s Great White Shark Tracking Robot

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Amy Kukulya’s clients often have curious requests, but this was among the oddest. As an engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), she has operated autonomous underwater vehicles beneath Arctic ice in Greenland, in a New Zealand lake to find geothermal terraces submerged by a volcanic eruption, and with Navy SEALS working on underwater docking systems.

So when Kukulya’s boss, Tom Austin, came to her and said, ‘Amy, I’ve got just the project for you,’ it had to be interesting. The project was peculiar—outrageous, actually. They would be refitting one of their autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUVs, to track and film great white sharks. The Discovery Channel was paying for it. For a program for its annual Shark Week.

Kukulya laughed. Were they serious? “It was clearly going to be a very difficult engineering challenge,” she said.

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