(Footage courtesy of Noah Lawrence-Slavas, NOAA-PMEL)
Scientists and industry alike are using remotely-operated, sea-going drones to analyze the ocean for everything from oil spill impacts to ocean acidification.
One such sea-going, data-collecting robot is the Wave Glider. Made by Liquid Robotics, its surf-riding, rather than underwater, propulsion and networking technology has helped the Wave Rider win a large share of this emerging market. Other robotic ocean gliders are made by Teledyne Webb Research and iRobot.
Here are the five coolest things about this new robotic technology that’s riding the waves:
1) No Batteries Required. These remote-controlled surfboards and submarines can be deployed for thousands of miles and months at a time. In the case of the Wave Glider, that’s because it’s equipped with solar panels strapped to the top and a device that looks like a venetian blind suspended in the water below to harness wave power. Other remote explorers rely on the ocean’s stored heat for power.
2) Avast Land Lubbers! Sea sickness got you down? Scientists can sit back and analyze data on currents, temperature, pH, CO2 levels and more - all from the comfort of their laboratories while these off-shore drones feed back data via satellite.
3) Sharing is Caring. Got a question about currents around Alaska? If there’s a Wave Glider out there in the service of the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, you can get that info. Data collected by the researchers at this lab, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will be sharing data with anyone who wants it.
4) You Always Wanted a Remote Controlled Boat. Wave Gliders can be steered remotely and if they get too close to a large vessel or the shore, their onboard GPS device will set off an alarm and the phone will ring back at HQ to help steer the little guy out of harm’s way.
5) Easy on the Research Budget. Chartering a ship to collect information can cost upwards of $35,000 per day and you only get to sample along the route of the vessel. Surfing and underwater robots allow researchers to do transects across vast stretches of the ocean at very low operating cost (although these things will run you a couple hundred grand for the initial purchase, more if you trick it out).
Congrats to David James for his winning submission, 'Annabella smelling the Balsam.'
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