Thursday, July 7, 2011

Liquid Robotics to launch wave gliders to collect oceanographic data

The Wave Glider is a new technology dedicated to collecting data about the ocean.
The Wave Glider uses solar panels to harvest energy from the sun to propel itself, allowing for the Wave Glider to travel long distance without needing to refuel.
Data collected is transmitted in real time via satellite to shore (video part II).

From Igyaan

Liquid Robotics, a Silicon Valley startup, makes remote controlled robots that cruise the open ocean and gather data.
The company plans to collect this data and offer it up to consumers on the web.
The machines, called
Wave Gliders, can keep track of all sorts of data including whale songs, wave heights and the presence of nearby ships.

The company plans to sell these robots to governments, research institutions and energy companies for between $1,50,000 and $500,000 a piece depending on the included components.
Liquid Robotics has deployed nearly 100 Wave Gliders over the past year-and-a-half that have racked up 150,000 miles of ocean travel, according to the company which also expands its cloud services that let customers buy subscriptions to the data gathered by the Wave Gliders.
“Customers can say, ‘I just want to buy data services and I need robots at these locations in the ocean for these things,’ ” said Vass.
“We’ll throw the robots in the ocean and they’ll transmit data in real time. Another option is that we have a group of robots that are pre-deployed and people can set up a data plan for where they happen to be.”
About a third of the company’s clients buy off-the-shelf Wave Gliders, another third order customized robots designed for specific tasks while another third opt for the data subscription model, according to Vass.
Subscriptions run between $300,000 to $500,000 a year.
If that sounds expensive, Vass says consider that it can cost between $30,000 and $70,000 a day to operate a deep-ocean ship. Wave Gliders, on the other hand, can spend years at sea, returning to port periodically for maintenance.

NOAA PMEL wave gliders are a simple and cost-effective platform for collecting ocean data that does not rely on expensive ships or buoys.

The wave glider features a 6-foot, 10-inch-long floating section equipped with solar panels, a battery and sensors (
Tethered 23 feet below the float in the water is a similarly sized glider with metal wings and a rudder that propel and steer the device.

The inventor of the device, Robert Hine, originally made the device for a friend who wished to study whale songs off the coast of Hawaii.
He started designing and fabricating the machines in 2005, taking every other week off from his job as a semiconductor engineer.
He experimented with different Electric Engine designs, but they all failed.
After much research, he came up with a design that harnesses the natural energy in waves, like a sailboat harnesses the wind.

The gliders ‘wings’ use the up and down motion of the waves to propel the device forward at a pace of around 1.5 miles per hour.
Operators are able to map out a route and have waypoints transmitted to the robot via satellite.
It then uses GPS signals to follow the programmed route.
The robot is unable to remain still but can criss-cross the same area.

Because the gliders are essentially floating platforms that can be programmed to go anywhere, there are many possible uses.
They can measure ocean and air temperature to help predict storms and water currents and wave height for shippers trying to determine the safest route for their vessels.
They also can help oceanographers monitor whales and other aquatic life.
In crowded areas like the Gulf of Mexico, gliders could collect location, speed and destination information for ships—information that now is sent through radio signals—and display the information on a map.
There are less obvious uses as well. Mr. Vass imagines equipping gliders with cellular towers to provide coverage in the middle of oceans.
Also, gliders could be programmed to dispense fish food, creating fish farms that move around at sea.

Liquid Robotics isn’t the only company that makes unmanned sea vehicles for data collection.
iRobot Corp., creator of the Roomba vacuum cleaner, makes a glider that collects information up to 3,000 feet under water, surfacing from time to time to transmit its findings and collect new instructions.
Slocum glider from Teledyne Technologies Inc. works in a similar way.
Both gliders can collect information from far deeper in the ocean than the one from Liquid Robotics, but aren’t able to transmit data continuously.

Links :
  • WSJ : Where data depend on catching a wave
  • YouTube : Wave glider, an autonomous wave-powered sensor platform
  • Al : BP employing unmanned 'Wave Gliders' to measure oil spill impacts
  • NOAA : NDBC deploys first operational wave glider to monitor weather