HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Keeping tabs on the water quality and habitat of the Great Lakes has taken a quantum leap forward with a new technology that can chart the lakes condition without a ship or crew.

It’s called an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, think of it as an underwater robot that can have a big, positive impact one of Michigan’s greatest natural resources.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and others were on board as the AUV called Tethys was pulled from Lake Michigan after taking readings regarding the condition of the lake.

The vehicle is about six feet long, weighs about 250 pounds and can travel hundreds of miles over a few days.

It’s a project of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Great Lakes Science Center paid for with grants from public and private sources. It could give researchers and scientists a valuable cache of information about the lake.

“What we’re doing is, in essence, setting a baseline for the Great Lakes. We’re looking at the sustainability of smaller fish, of algae,” Upton said.

In a couple hundred miles the torpedo shaped device can dive down 150 feet to sample all manner of conditions that impact the lake environment.

That’s what it did before it was retrieved off the coast of Holland Tuesday morning.

“There’s a sensor payload that measures water quality. Essentially the amount of oxygen in the water, the temperature of the water and the amount of electrical conductivity in the water which tells us the amount of dissolved minerals are in the water. There is also a sensor that can measure the amount of algae in the water,” said Peter Esselman with the USGS.

The Tethys can be retrofitted for a number of different sensors and can be used indefinitely with upgrades and maintenance.

The $500,000 piece of equipment is in its sixth year and will be redeployed next week off the shore in Pentwater.