On November 17th of last year, a group of four wave-powered autonomous aquatic robots set out from San Francisco, embarking on a planned 37,000-mile (60,000-km) trip across the Pacific ocean. Recently, the fleet of Wave Gliders completed the first leg of their journey, arriving at Hawaii’s Big Island after traveling over 3,200 nautical miles (5,926 km). By doing so, they have set a new distance record for unmanned wave-powered vehicles – that record previously sat at 2,500 nautical miles (4,630 km).
The Wave Gliders are made by California- and Hawaii-based Liquid Robotics, and each consist of a floating “boat” tethered to an underwater winged platform. The motion of the waves causes these wings to paddle the boat forward, while solar cells on the deck of the boat provide power to its sensors and transmitters. These sensors measure oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature, wave characteristics, weather conditions, water fluorescence, and dissolved oxygen. GPS and a heading sensor also help the craft to orient themselves.
After receiving a brief check-up in Hawaii, the Wave Gliders will continue with their journey, but will split into two pairs. One pair will head for Australia, while the other will be bound for Japan. All four are expected to reach their destinations by late 2012 or early 2013.
Their journey, known as PacX (for "Pacific Crossing"), is intended to showcase the vehicles’ capabilities.