Skip to Content

Robot Lumberjack

September 1, 2000

Furniture built from rainforest hardwoods like teak or mahogany has become a mark of environmental insensitivity. But if lumber companies harvested the perfectly preserved trees left under water by dam construction, they could increase the supply of such woods without endangering tropical habitats. So says Gary Ackles, president of Aquatic Cellulose of Vernon, B.C., who has developed a mechanized “aquatic lumberjack” to recover these valuable commodities far more quickly and safely than human divers could. Aquatic Cellulose is harvesting 1,800 square kilometers of trees from a Brazilian reservoir.

The system consists of a robotic arm controlled from the deck of a barge; the operator maneuvers the arm underwater with guidance from digitally enhanced video and real-time acoustical imaging. The robot arm can cut through a 1-meter diameter tree in 15 seconds and haul logs to the surface from up to 35 meters under.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.