Liquid Robotics Gliders Set World Record for Unmanned Ocean Travel

Greg Galitzine : Robotics
Greg Galitzine

Liquid Robotics Gliders Set World Record for Unmanned Ocean Travel

On November 17th, 2011, Liquid Robotics launched four Wave Gliders from San Francisco’s St. Francis Yacht Club. The Wave Gliders’ goal? To journey across the Pacific Ocean, covering the longest distance ever attempted by an unmanned ocean vehicle.

Well today, the gliders have achieved a significant milestone, arriving in Hawaii, completing the first leg of their trans-Pacific trek. The distance covered to date is over 3,200 nautical miles, which handily beats the old Guinness Book World record of 2,500 nautical miles.

wave glider.jpgThe Wave Gliders, which are a part of the PacX Challenge, were developed by Liquid Robotics. What sets them apart from other unmanned underwater vehicles is their ability to utilize the ocean’s endless supply of wave energy for propulsion (no manpower, no emissions, no refueling). According to the Liquid Robotics Web site, “…a unique two-part architecture and wing system directly converts wave motion into thrust, and solar panels provide electricity for sensor payloads.”

The Wave Glider is also effective at collecting and transmitting data gathered during extended missions, over great distances, or while holding station.

Edward Lu, Chief of Innovative Applications at Liquid Robotics has reason to be excited by the achievement. “We are proud our PacX Wave Gliders have reached their first destination and broken the world record,” he said. “I have no doubt new ocean discoveries, insights, and applications will emerge from the PacX data set. PacX represents a new model for providing widespread and easy access to environmental monitoring of the world’s oceans, one in which Liquid Robotics operates fleets of mobile, autonomous ocean robots across previously inaccessible areas of the ocean.”

After a quick examination, the PacX Wave Gliders will continue on their final journeys to Australia and Japan. One team of Wave Gliders will cross the Mariana Trench and battle the Kuroshio Current on their way to Japan. The second team will cross the equator on their way to Australia.

Arrival at their respective destinations is expected to occur in late 2012 or early 2013.

Further information about the PacX Challenge, the Wave Gliders and the PacX Challenge grand prize, is available at the PacX Web site.

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