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Liquid Robotics hosts PacX challenge to send four robots across the Pacific

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Liquid Robotics, an Arena customer and Bay Area startup, is on a mission to change the way we understand the ocean.

Although oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface, we know very little about their weather, currents, chemistry, topography or ecosystems. Liquid Robotics seeks to change all that with a fleet of robots that can measure everything happening in the ocean—from weather to whale activity to oil slicks. They’ve pulled together an exciting team of innovators, including James Gosling, the inventor of java, and Edward Lu, a former astronaut who is in charge of “innovative applications” at the company.

Liquid Robotics has been getting lots of attention from sites like the New York Times and Fast Company, and their upcoming PacX event—a challenge that will send four robots across the Pacific Ocean—promises to build even more momentum for this ocean robotics startup.

The Wave Glider—A solar and wave-powered robot


The Wave Glider uses a wave-based propulsion system and two solar panels to fuel its computers, meaning it has zero emissions, and requires no fueling or additional power supply. It moves at about one and a half knots across the ocean, recording data, which is then crunched automatically onboard and shipped by satellite or cellphone to big onshore computers that do complex analysis.

Its sensors can monitor pollution, oil spills, salinity levels and even phytoplankton activity, and so far, the Wave Gliders are being used by a number of different organizations—including BP (for water quality monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico), NOAA and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Liquid Robotics is working toward networking thousands of Wave Gliders, and adding sensors and onboard computing capability so the robots can manage themselves during ocean-going projects lasting years.  According to Edward Lu, “This is a bit like 1960 in the Space Age, when they had launched just a few satellites. . . space is now a normal part of life, used for television transmission, credit card transactions and driving directions. We can do the same thing with the sea.”

The PacX Challenge. Four Wave Gliders. 300 Days. 25,000 Miles. 2,250,000 Discrete Data Points.

On November 17th, 2011, in San Francisco, Liquid Robotics will attempt to send four Wave Gliders across the Pacific Ocean—the longest distance at sea ever completed by an unmanned marine vehicle.

The robots will travel from San Francisco to Hawaii together, and then take separate routes across the Pacific, one pair arriving in Japan and the other in Australia. While at sea, the Wave Gliders will be routed across regions never before remotely surveyed and will continuously transmit valuable data on salinity and water temperature, waves, weather, fluorescence and dissolved oxygen. This data will be made available in near real-time to all registered individuals.

Scientists are encouraged to submit uses for the data, and the winner will receive six months of free Wave Glider data services. The lucky winner will also get to work with Liquid Robotics to chart the course and mission for the six month deployment.

I am so excited to see what’s next for this Arena customer—they really have a shot at accomplishing something huge!

And for more info, here’s a video showing a little bit more about what the Wave Glider can do:

And to see more Arena customers, visit our website.

About the Author

Alex Gammelgard

Alex managed social media marketing and communications at Arena from 2011 to 2012. Although coming in fresh to the manufacturing industry, Alex is married to an engineer and is well ...

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