Unmanned Water Robot Wins WSJ Award

Solar-powered vehicle converts the motion of waves into forward thrust.

An unmanned maritime vehicle called the Wave Glider, which is powered by wave and solar energy, was recently named the winner of the Wall Street Journals 2010 Technology Innovation Award for Robotics.

The Wave Glider, produced by Liquid Robotics, a Silicon Valley-based technology developer, is essentially a surface buoy and a submerged glider with wing-shaped panels that convert the motion of waves into forward thrust. With twin 43 watt solar panels, the craft can be propelled indefinitely without requiring batteries or other sources of power. The Wave Gliders navigation, control, and communications systems require only 0.7 watts of continuous power.

The oceanic robot works in large groups controlled via a web-based interface. Data is then transmitted to shore via satellite. Payloads already used include passive acoustics for marine mammal monitoring and common meteorological and oceanographic (METOC) sensors.

According to the Liquid Robotics, the Wave Glider is being marketed as a more efficient and comprehensive ocean exploration, research and monitoring and can support all phases of offshore renewable energy projects.

The technology has been in operation in the field since 2008 and Wave Gliders have logged over 100,000 miles of operations to date and demonstrated voyages of over 2,500 miles lasting over 400 days. Those voyages have included highly adverse conditions such as winds above 50 knots, swells exceeding 18 feet and peak wave heights of over 21 feet.

The Wave Glider was recently used during the BP oil spill disaster to monitor conditions in the Gulf of Mexico.

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