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In rare-earth quest, Japan to deploy US-made drone sub

'World's first' such survey will scan wide area of seabed for deposits

The Japanese research ship Chikyu, shown in Shizuoka, will take part in development of offshore rare-earth deposits.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Japan will deploy an autonomous underwater vehicle as early as next year as part of a government-backed search for industrially vital rare-earth elements, in what officials describe as the world's first survey of its kind.

The vehicle, developed by the U.S.-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, will bounce ultrasound waves off the seabed 6,000 meters below the Pacific Ocean east of Japan.

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