A Floating Computer For The High Seas

Will robots soon take over the shipping lanes?

liquid robotics Wave Glider
An early generation Wave Glider at sea collecting data for NOAA.

San Francisco – Liquid Robotics has released its latest unmanned, autonomous marine robot. Dubbed the Wave Glider SV3, it is the world’s first hybrid wave and solar propelled unmanned ocean robot.

The Wave Glider SV3 leverages the basic design principle of the highly successful Wave Glider SV2 platform. Introduced in 2009, the Wave Glider SV2 has since traveled more than 300,000 nautical miles globally, set a world record for longest distance traveled by an autonomous vehicle (land or sea), and has been deployed on hundreds of missions ranging from the Arctic to Australia, and from the Canary Islands to Loch Ness. And one SV2 made history in December when it successfully floated more than 9,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean.

With a price tag of $300,000, the updated SV3 can take photos and collect data on air temperature, winds, humidity, wind gusts, water temperature, water color, and water composition. “Riding the advancements in consumer electronics, smartphone, tablet computing, and a new generation of extremely capable processors, we are now able to provide processing onboard” according to Roger Hine, inventor of the Wave Glider. “With that computational power and the ability to tirelessly swim across vast oceans, the Wave Glider SV3 is a big step forward in unmanned monitoring and exploration.”

Most promising is, as Brian Lam has reported,  the Wave Glider’s simple design. A surfboard-sized float bobs on waves, big or small. That motion is transferred through a streamlined, 7-meter, rubber-and-steel cable to a submarine that cruises in the deeper, calmer waters. “Even in the rough open ocean, seven meters down there’s virtually no up and down wave motion,” Brager says. This translates to greater durability and longevity for the platform.

Wave Gliders are currently collecting data mostly for scientific research projects but they may be deployed in the future to monitor vessel movements via AIS or even help ships avoid pirate attacks.