Amidst the news of Hurricane Sandy, of the devastation and ongoing efforts at rescuing those in harm’s way, there was a story that might have been overlooked. It seems that a small robot named Mercury, one of Liquid Robotics wave gliders, survived the storm and managed to keep transmitting information the whole time.
When the storm hit, Mercury was located just 161 km east of Toms River, New Jersey, where winds got up to about 115 km/hour. Nevertheless, the robot continued to function though the worst of it, transmitting real-time weather data and helping scientists to get a better understanding of what made the storm tick.
Naturally, everyone at the parent company was quite pleased with their little automaton, even though it was only doing its job. Technically speaking, Wave Gliders are autonomous monitoring devices that use the ocean’s waves for propulsion. They are composed of two sections; a float for the surface and a submarine compartment that resides under the water. The lower section also comes equipped with moving wings that ensure that the Glider can convert wave energy into forward momentum.
Each Glider comes with a GPS, a series of internal pocessors, navigation software, and an assortment of environmental sensors. Designed for oceanic data-gathering missions, their primary purpose is to help scientists and meteorologists understand and come up with solutions for climate change, resource management, and weather alerts. Given this mission profile, Mercury’s ability to keep on working through a Class One hurricane was quite encouraging. According to Joanne Masters of Liquid Robotics’: “Being able to provide real-time weather data from the surface and the first layer of the water column of the ocean will help scientists better measure and predict hurricane intensity. This can help save lives and prevent property devastation.”