Your next Kodak Moment: surfacing drones
DARTMOUTH, Massachusetts (USA) _ Playful, chirping dolphins escorting your boat! Always a high point! But these days, be ready for an even bigger Kodak Moment. 16 US and Canadian government agencies and research teams have joined forces in ocean exploration using underwater drones. The gliders dive in swooping curves to measure water temperatures, current strengths and other underwater features. They surface every 2 or 3 hours to unload their data via satellite. Got your camera handy?
In October, a University of Massachusetts ocean glider was recovered after a 21-day mission off the US east coast. The ‘’Gliderpalooza’’ program gathers coastal ocean environment data. Researchers are also planning to deploy gliders in the Western Pacific to help forecast storms and predict their intensity. “If we can better predict the intensity, we can better predict the human impact,” Scott M. Glenn, an oceanographer tells The New York Times. “That’s critical, especially in Asia, where so many people die when these typhoons make landfall.”
Ocean drones are not new. They have been around for a decade, surveying areas too dangerous for humans. But the Gliderpalooza gliders show the technology is getting increasingly more sophisticated.
The Gliderpalooza project uses 16 battery-powered gliders off the US Eastern Seaboard, from Nova Scotia down to Georgia, trying to craft the most complete picture yet of the Atlantic’s underwater motions. Resembling cruise missiles, they dive to a depth of 650 feet _ not deep but enough to explore continental shelves.
Researchers hope gliders will provide a new perspective. Satellites map the ocean surface. The Gliderpalooza projects wants a 3-D view of the oceans. Each glider costs $125,000 to $150,000. That’s a steal when you consider that sending a research vessel out can cost at least $35,000 a day.