A floating robot survived a rough ride at sea during Hurricane Sandy rather than seek shelter from the storm. It was all in the line of duty for this particular Wave Glider, a weather-monitoring robot that resembles a surfboard.
The robot named Mercury is one of many Wave Gliders designed by California company Liquid Robotics to convert the motion of waves into forward thrust — the robot's floating section is connected to an underwater glider for that reason. Mercury rode out winds of up to almost 81 mph (130 kilometers per hour) about 100 miles off the coast of New Jersey as it recorded a plunge in atmospheric pressure that signaled Sandy's approach to land.
"Mercury now joins the fleet of other Wave Gliders that have come through Category I hurricanes to successfully fulfill their missions," said Dr. Edward Lu, chief of innovative applications for Liquid Robotics. "This is a testament to our robust and reliable technology and proof of its readiness for severe weather data collection."
Wave Gliders have already set world records for oceangoing travel by traveling from the West Coast to Hawaii. One pair of robots is headed for Japan with a stop at the Mariana Trench — the deepest place on Earth — while a second pair heads for Australia.
The Mercury Wave Glider is part of an ocean-observing project that includes two Sonardyne undersea nodes. Such a project aims to show how both subsea and surface technology can monitor tsunamis in a cost-effective way.
"In the midst of this epic disaster, Liquid Robotics wishes to express our sympathies for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy," said Bill Vass, the company's CEO. "We are working closely with scientists around the world to use the Wave Glider technology for better hurricane, typhoon and tsunami prediction so we can help reduce the risk to human life and property."
Mercury isn't the only seagoing vessel involved with Hurricane Sandy. The U.S. Navy has deployed three warships off the coast of New York and New Jersey to act as floating platforms for helicopters helping out with storm recovery.
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