With 80% of people residing within 50 miles of a coast, it’s not surprising that efforts to better understand and protect our oceans get a lot of attention.
Our customer, Liquid Robotics, has been all over the news lately with its Wave Glider, an autonomous ocean-powered robot that can travel long distances, hold station and measure everything happening in the ocean—from weather to whale activity to oil slicks.
In November, we announced that Liquid Robotics was hosting the PacX Challenge—a data-collection journey across the Pacific Ocean that will break the world record for longest distance ever attempted by an unmanned ocean vehicle. I was lucky enough to attend the launch on Nov 17 at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco where I had a chance to get up close and personal with the four bots attempting the journey.
During their 300 day voyage across the ocean, four Wave Gliders will collect approximately 2.25 million discrete data points that will give scientists insight into ocean salinity, water temperature, waves, weather, fluorescence and dissolved oxygen. Two robots will go from San Francisco to Australia, and two will go from San Francisco to Japan (after a pit stop in Hawaii in February.)
So far, the mission has been going pretty well. After a brief shakedown in the San Francisco Bay, the robots were on their way, and have already collected a ton of interesting data points for scientists and researchers to review.
Meet the Ocean-crossing Robots
TEAM JAPAN—Piccard Maru & Fontaine Maru
Inspired by Jacques Piccard, a Swiss oceanographer and engineer, known for having developed underwater vehicles for studying ocean currents. He was one of only two people, along with Lt. Don Walsh of the United States Navy, to have explored the deepest part of the world’s ocean, and the deepest location on the surface of the Earth’s crust, the Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench located in the western North Pacific Ocean.
Inspired by Matthew Fontaine Maury, an American astronomer, historian, oceanographer, meteorologist, cartographer, author, geologist, and educator. Maury made many important new contributions to charting winds and ocean currents, including ocean lanes for passing ships at sea.
TEAM AUSTRALIA—Benjamin & Papa Mau
Inspired by Dr. Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. In addition to his writings, his inventions and experiments with electricity, Ben was an early oceanographer. As deputy postmaster, Franklin became interested in the North Atlantic Ocean circulation patterns. Ultimately, Franklin was responsible for discovering the Gulf Stream Current.
Inspired by Pius “Mau” Piailug, a Micronesian navigator from the Carolinian island of Satawal. Mau was best known as a teacher of traditional, non-instrument wayfinding methods for deep-sea voyaging. With Mau’s help, the Polynesian Voyaging Society PVS was able to recreate and test lost Hawaiian navigational techniques on the Hōkūle‘a, a modern reconstruction of a double-hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe.
How is data being captured along the way?
Here are some of the sensors mounted on the Wave Gliders as they make their way across the Pacific.
Seabird GPCTD with Dissolved Oxygen Sensor – measures water conductivity, temperature, depth, and dissolved oxygen just below the float of the Wave Glider.
Datawell MOSE-G Directional Wave Sensor – measures significant wave height, average period, peak period, and peak direction.
Airmar PB200 WeatherStation– measures air temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, wind gust speed, and wind direction one meter above the deck of the Wave Glider.
Turner Designs C3 Submersible Fluorometer – measures chlorophyll-A and crude oil fluorescence, as well as turbidity and water temperature just below the float of the Wave Glider.
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Our customers are doing some pretty big things, and it’s always a pleasure to be involved! If you’re interested in following the PacX journey, keep up with the robots on the Liquid Robotics blog. To read more articles on manufacturing and engineering innovation, subscribe to our blog.