Technology (and sloppy planning) may have gotten us into BP’s oil mess, but it also proving instrumental in the cleaning process. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Oceana just launched an underwater oil-tracking robot, dubbed “Waldo”, off the Florida Keys in an attempt to protect the area against encroaching oil plumes.
The torpedo-like six and a half-foot long robot comes decked out with sensors that detect both oil and chemical dispersants. During its deployment in waters north and northwest of the Florida Keys, Waldo will gather data every two seconds and send information to researchers via satellite every three hours. If and when oil is detected, researchers will perform oil sampling tests and alert the local government.
The NRDC explains, “A fluorometer measures the light emitted – or fluorescence – of the water as the AUV travels in the water column. The fluorometer has an LED (light-emitting diode) that sends out ultraviolet light, and if water contains certain chemical components of oil, these chemicals will absorb the light and re-emit it as fluorescence. A detector will see this light emission and report its presence.”
Stay tuned — Waldo will have information to share soon enough.