Record-breaking marine robot crosses Pacific

Posted by Kate Taylor

A swimming robot measuring just seven feet long has successfully crossed the Pacific after more than a year at sea.

Developed by Liquid Robotics, the Wave Glider 'Papa Mau' covered 9,000 nautical miles to set a new world record for the longest distance traveled by an autonomous vehicle.

During its journey, the robot weathered gale-force storms and dodged sharks, all under autonomous control. It collected and transmitted 'unprecedented' amounts of high-resolution ocean data that is now available to all.

"To say we are excited and proud of Papa Mau reaching his final destination is an understatement," says Bill Vass, CEO of Liquid Robotics.

"We set off on the PacX journey to demonstrate that Wave Glider technology could not only survive the high seas and a journey of this length, but more importantly, collect and transmit ocean data in real-time from the most remote portions of the Pacific Ocean. We’ve demonstrated delivery of ocean data services through the most challenging ocean conditions."

Along the way, Papa Mau traveled through and measured over 1,200 miles of a chlorophyll bloom along the Equatorial Pacific. These blooms  of phytoplankton are fundamental to ocean life and climate regulation, and are usually monitored through satellite imagery.

"Direct validation of chlorophyll blooms at this resolution provides a groundbreaking link between scientific modeling and in-situ measurement of the Pacific Ocean," says the company.

A second Australian PacX ocean robot, named Benjamin, is expected to land in early 2013. However, one of the pair heading for Japan, Fontaine Maru, has been damaged and is returning to Hawaii for repair, before continuing its journey to Japan.

Meanwhile, Liquid Robotics has also announced five finalists competing for a $50,000 research grant from BP and six months of Wave Glider data services.

"These scientists will conduct research into some of the world’s most challenging ocean issues ranging from measuring the ocean’s health and respiration to studying the ocean’s biomass - the most fundamental organisms critical to ocean life," says Luke Beatman, an oceanographer at Liquid Robotics and chairman of the PacX Science Board.