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The Ocean’s Secrets Are Being Revealed By Undersea Drones

Source: CNN/ Kieron Monks - March 15, 2017 in Adventure

The Ocean’s Secrets Are Being Revealed By Undersea Drones
Photo: Joel Hatfield/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

When Typhoon Rammasun swept through the South China Sea in July, a tiny ship was trapped in its path. The deadly storm whipped up waves over 10 meters high and winds approaching 200 miles per hour. Any regular boat would have been smashed to pieces, but this craft just a few feet long sailed through without pausing in its work.

The Wave Glider is an ocean drone developed by Californian start-up Liquid Robotics. It had been collecting environmental information when the storm hit, and continued throughout the encounter to compile a unique dataset of the conditions created by Rammasun. The craft’s instruments recorded the speed and movement of waves, current and wind from the epicenter, the first such measurements from such a powerful storm, which are now available for scientists to use in the development of warning systems.

The Glider consists of two parts: a surfboard-like shell that floats along the surface, bearing a row of solar panels that power the craft. This is connected by cable to the sophisticated measuring tools that float five meters below, protected from the fiercest elements, propelled by wave-powered wings that also serve as an anchor to make it almost indestructible.

“We can put them in places where humans would not be happy to go … there is huge potential to save lives and prevent damage,” said Graham Hine, co-founder of Liquid Robotics. “It’s pretty clear that we can forecast the direction of a hurricane, the intensity, and better understand the original formation of storms.”

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