Liquid Robotics, a Silicon Valley startup behind the surfboard-sized robots known as Wave Gliders, announced today that the Papa Mau robot completed a record-breaking 9,000 mile trip across the Pacific Ocean from California to Australia. During its more than 365 days at sea, the robot reportedly survived shark attacks, weathered gale-force storms and battled the East Australian Current. But the wave-powered robot it reached its destination, setting a new world record for the longest distance traveled by an autonomous vehicle.
Last year, Liquid Robotics sent four wave gliders on trips across the Pacific Ocean, beginning in San Francisco. The robots were intended to measure oil spills and salinity levels, while also testing their own endurance. Two of the robots that were headed for Japan experienced rudder problems, causing them to abandon their missions, and a third robot is currently about 750 miles east of Australia.
Papa Mau completed its mission, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the record-setting wave glider. In addition to powerful storms and curious sharks, the robot encountered several cloudy days, which affected its ability to produce enough energy to power its sensors.
“To say we are excited and proud of Papa Mau reaching his final destination is an understatement,” said Liquid Robotics CEO Bill Vass in a statement. “We set off on the PacX journey to demonstrate that Wave Glider technology could not only survive the high seas and a journey of this length, but more importantly, collect and transmit ocean data in real-time from the most remote portions of the Pacific Ocean. We’ve demonstrated delivery of ocean data services through the most challenging ocean conditions. Mission accomplished.”
Liquid Robotics recently launched the PacX Challenge, a global competition calls on scientists to submit research proposals for data collected by the wave gliders. Five finalists were announced this week; the winner will receive a $50,000 research grant.
via Fast Company