Our oceans make up 70 percent of the planet. Yet little is known about what goes on beneath the water. So researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab in Seattle are using a robotic vehicle known as a wave glider to answer pressing questions.
The glider, which was invented by Liquid Robotics, a marine technology company, looks like a simple surfboard, but can do a lot more. The device gathers data on things such as ocean acidification, CO2 levels, water temperature, Ph levels, salinity and oxygen.
NOAA says on their website:
"The wave glider immediately converts wave motion into thrust, pulling the float along a programmed or piloted path, while solar panels replenish the batteries for sensors and communications. Data are transmitted to shore via satellite and pilots can control the wave gliders from any device with an Internet connection."
The information can help scientists and shellfish farmers learn about changes in the ocean.
"They can be used for fisheries management to count tagged fish," Producer Ashley Ahearn reports for Living on Earth. "They can be sent out to collect data on potential sites for offshore wind or wave power development. And they can also be rigged up with acoustic monitoring devices, which has made them an easy sell to the Navy and intelligence agencies."
And most recently, Liquid Robotics announced that it would team up with oil and gas companies to help them locate new offshore oil drilling sites.
"Sure, the 250-pound wave gliders will help with the planning and installation of offshore oil facilities--something that might make anyone with a memory of the BP oil disaster flinch (incidentally, Liquid Robotics helped BP with water-quality monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico). But Liquid Robotics Oil & Gas will also do plenty of good--think spill detection, monitoring for post-oil-spill remediation, and measurements of things like wave height and surface currents."
And with a price tag of $200,000 on the low end, the gliders could prove to be the best way to connect researchers and companies with the ocean.
Photo via Liquid Robotics