If you thought there could be nothing better than a world-record-setting wave-powered nautical robot, you were wrong. The PacX Wave Glider team of robots is all of those things – and they’re on a mission to save the oceans to boot! Built by Liquid Robotics the quartet of robots set out from San Francisco propelled forward by wave power and outfitted with gadgets fueled by the sun that are capable of measuring the health of the ocean and its inhabitants. The robots just landed in Hawaii and their 3,200-nautical mile trip set a world record – but they’re not finished yet. The quartet will now split into two pairs, with one pair headed to Japan and the other to Australia.
The Liquid Robotics crew have put out a call to scientists from around the world asking them to submit one-page abstracts detailing a study they’d like to do based on the data gathered by the Wave Glider teams. “These Wave Gliders are much like small ‘spacecraft’ that open up new opportunities for robotic exploration. I challenge all scientists who are interested in advancing ocean exploration to take advantage of this unique opportunity. What scientific questions can we address with this new and unique data set?” said Ed Lu of Liquid Robotics. The robots are heading into parts of the ocean that have been thought inaccessible to research vessels and will be gathering information on the acidification of ocean waters and the health of fish in the area. The data gathered will show how the oxygen levels in the ocean — oxygen levels are highly affected by acid levels — are affecting the size of fish communities in different areas.
The previous world record for an unmanned nautical vessel was 2,500 nautical miles and the Wave Gliders blew that right out of the water on just the first leg of their journey. It took them four months to travel from San Francisco to Hawaii. The next leg of the journey will take two of the robots over the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot on Earth, on their way to Japan.