Posted by Dabney B. on Thursday, March 1st, 2012
The ocean is fluid. Well, of course it’s fluid in the sense that it’s filled with fluid, but I mean that in the other sense of the word. It’s fluid in the sense that it’s constantly changing, with currents shifting and tides fluctuating. In that kind of environment, monitoring the current conditions of the ocean is a difficult and important task. Travel along aquatic routes can be much more complicated than you’d expect, as currents can mean that following a straight line is not always the fastest course. Sailing is a bit like driving a car when roads are constantly changing and moving around.
A couple of tiny little unmanned boats named Wave Gliders might just be the best way to monitor the sea routes and conditions of the world’s oceans. Normally, when you think about unmanned drones, the first thing that comes to mind are the top-secret spy planes used by the Air Force. The overwhelming success of these drones have demonstrated that this type of technology should be able to succeed in other areas.
Created by Liquid Robotics, these small drones putter around the ocean and are completely self-sustained. Solar panels on the top of the device collect enough energy for the sensors and transmitters, and the drones actually rely on the currents of the ocean for propulsion. It utilizes wave energy for movement and directs underwater propellers to give it a measure of control, meaning that it can theoretically float all the way around the planet without ever needing to refuel. Their small size (a bit shorter than surf boards) makes them fairly easy to produce and extremely efficient.
While these humble-looking drones may not seem particularly revolutionary, they are much more important than you’d expect. They send crucial information to information centers so that anybody travelling through the oceans can have the most up-to-date, accurate information about the conditions of the sea. It can even send back pertinent scientific data for research purposes.
Most of all, drones like these help to enable a world where aquatic life is much more viable. One of the biggest hurdles that prevents mankind from creating more aquatic habitats is that the ocean just isn’t very stable, so it can be difficult to predict living conditions. These drones could potentially help to build the foundation of a future wherein the oceans of the world are constantly mapped and observed with enough accuracy to create a functional and reliable oceanic road map.