South Africa Embarks On A New Phase Of Ocean R&D With Robotic Gliders

By CIOReview | Thursday, March 3, 2016
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FREMONT, CA: The South African researchers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have deployed robotic gliders to track the underwater processes, reports Admire Moyo of ITWeb. This technology is in the vanguard of maritime inventions that will determine the future of marine research activities and environmental monitoring. Robotic gliders will help in the study and analysis of ocean’s physical processes, its impacts on the balances in carbon dioxide levels and growth of micro organisms inhabiting the upper layers of the ocean.

According to Sebastiaan Swart, Principal Scientist at CSIR, the data so collected will be used to assess the effect of human activities on underwater life. Even though the glider technology comes as a replacement to the customary methods of oceanic investigations—through satellite and research ships, it could still be coupled with the latter for understanding the role of diminutive events such as eddies on the overall state of the ocean. The chief technical components of the Robotic glider comprise a Sonar(Sound Navigation and Ranging) system for fish detection and a data capturing unit mounted on an unmanned marine vechicle that makes up the sensor platform. The vehicle’s design supports forward motion based on wave propulsion, a feature that allows it to be deployed in water for months.

 The integration of technology components used in the robotic gliders was done by the industry partner of CSIR, Sea Technology Services and the data capturing & control unit installed in the payload compartment was provided by Liquid Robotics.

Presently SA has a fleet of nine robotic gliders which will eventually be enlarged to meet the growing demands of marine research. Roughly 3 years ago the first Southern Ocean glider deployments were made in the remote Gough Island, a place considered to be one of the harshest environments in the world. The gliders collected and disseminated data continuously for six months from the location to the CSIR facility where it was stored, analyzed and made available to researchers abroad.

A ship deployed at sea is an expensive option for monitoring and also the observations are infrequent as compared to gliders. Considering the low maintenance cost, consistency and informational accuracy, gliders are a preferred option for the environmental researches in the ocean.