12 April 2013

Wave hello to our new robotic friend, the Wave Glider

Stuart Buchanan

If you’ve visited the Two Oceans Aquarium this week, you may have noticed an odd-looking contraption floating in the water above the I&J Predator Exhibit.

It’s called a Wave Glider – a specialised piece of robotics designed to float on the ocean surface and take important scientific measurements. The information it can reveal, like the levels of carbon dioxide in the water, are important in helping scientists to understand the ocean, the natural carbon-dioxide exchange and climate change.

wave glider ocean glider autonomous marine robot robotics two oceans aquarium cape town south africa southern ocean
The glider arrives, along with the team from CSIR. All photos by Stuart Buchanan

The glider arrived on Tuesday, along with a team of scientists from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). They are testing the newly-purchased glider out at the Aquarium, in preparation for its deployment 50 degrees south, in the icy Southern Ocean.

wave glider ocean glider autonomous marine robot robotics two oceans aquarium cape town south africa southern ocean
The glider is gently lowered into the exhibit using a pulley

“This is the first time measurements of the Southern Ocean are being made on this scale,” says Pedro Monteiro, head of the Southern Ocean Carbon-Climate Observatory (Socco) in a recent article in Business Day.

wave glider ocean glider autonomous marine robot robotics two oceans aquarium cape town south africa southern ocean
Pedro Monteiro and the team calibrate the machinery and check on the data the glider is sending back

The glider is self-powered, using a mechanical conversion of wave energy into forward propulsion. It also has a regular lithium-ion battery and a solar panel on board, to keep its various measuring equipment running for months on end. It can be steered remotely from anywhere in the world, via satellite.

wave glider ocean glider autonomous marine robot robotics two oceans aquarium cape town south africa southern ocean
A ragged-tooth shark swims by

It was designed to exist harmoniously in the environments in which it operates, and so it won’t cause any stress to our animals. Instead, Monteiro and his team will not only have given the glider a good test run, but he will also be able to provide the Aquarium with interesting data about the water in our exhibit.

wave glider ocean glider autonomous marine robot robotics two oceans aquarium cape town south africa southern ocean
The animals in the exhibit are largely unfazed by this new-fangled piece of technology

More for information about these fascinating marine robots, click here.

Stay in touch: for daily Aquarium updates, follow us on Twitter (@2OceansAquarium) and become a fan on Facebook.

blog comments powered by Disqus