NRDC, Oceana Launch Underwater Robot to Track Oil Plumes

by , 07/20/10

gulf oil spill, nrdc, oceana waldo, robotics, green design

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.

gulf oil spill, nrdc, oceana waldo, robotics, green design, sustainable design

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.


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1 Comment

  1. ehughwilliams July 21, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    You should check out iRobot’s Seaglider. They’ve had gliders in the gulf for weeks now, and were the ones to find evidence of the oil at all depths in the water column when BP was actively saying that the floating surface oil was the extent of the problem. More here:

    Not trying to advertise (but, full disclosure, I do work for iRobot). We’re glad that autonomous gliders (anyone’s) are finally able to make this kind of contribution to ocean science, cheaply, efficiently, and SAFELY; when the hurricane season begins and the the surface research vessels have to pull out, the gliders will still be there collecting data through the worst storms.

    Thanks for all the great articles — REALLY love inhabitat!

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