‘Liquid Robotics’ wants to fill the ocean with robots.
Liquid Robotics have developed the ‘Wave Glider’ - a wave powered, autonomous marine robot able to stay afloat indefinitely, collecting and transmitting data. It uses a floating platform similar to a surfboard on the ocean surface, which is covered with solar panels, sensors, and radio equipment as required for each mission. Below the surface, a tethered sub takes advantage of wave motion to translate that energy into forwards movement for the platform - check out the cool explanation here.
The company is about to send four Wave Gliders on an unmanned crossing of the Pacific Ocean. The gliders will initially all set off from California to Hawaii, before breaking into pairs and travelling on to Japan and Australia, collectively covering 34,000 nautical miles in an expected time of over 300 days.
The data gathered by the Gliders will be provided free of charge and in real-time, to the world’s scientists, educators, students, and the general public. When they reach their final destinations, the Wave Gliders will have earned a Guinness World Record for the longest voyage completed by an unmanned ocean vessel.
Wave Gliders have already collectively covered over 100,000 miles in testing, and survived events like Hurricane Isaac. The company is now on the look out for a market beyond scientists and oceanographers. The continuous, real time data could give shipping companies more information on their routes, or could gather intelligence data for the military - they are silent and should be undetectable by radar.
Currently a Wave Glider costs US$200,000 to buy, or can be leased for $1,000 to $3,000 a day.
*Update - it seems the Gliders are underway! Register here to see the data from the voyage in real time.