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Ocean Research Drone ‘Glider’ Recovered Off Baltimore

29th March 2017
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The path of the deep ocean glider SILBO as it crossed the North Atlantic Gyre The path of the deep ocean glider SILBO as it crossed the North Atlantic Gyre Photo: Marine Institute

#MarineScience - A deep-ocean drone was recovered with the help of the Marine Institute off the coast of Baltimore in West Cork earlier this month.

The SILBO autonomous glider, deployed by Teledyne Webb Research USA from Falmouth, Massachusetts in April last year, was sent on a mission to cross the North Atlantic and gather data from the ocean.

SILBO is one of 16 gliders undertaking 128,000km of co-ordinated surveys following an ocean gyre around the five global ocean basins. as part of the Unesco-endorsed Challenger mission.

Gliders look like torpedoes but lack propellors and an engine, instead relying on a movable internal ballast and external moveable fins to move across the ocean. They contain large battery packs to power the movement of the fins and change the internal ballast, as well as to power the glider’s sensors for ocean monitoring.

"Gliders like SILBO are equipped with a variety of sensors that enable scientists to monitor the ocean temperature, salinity, currents and other ocean conditions as well as offering a picture of places in the ocean that traditional satellites and research vessels may not be able to,” explained Aodhan Fitzgerald, RV operations manager at the Marine Institute, which used its remote operated vehicle to help recover the drone off Baltimore on Thursday 9 March.

“By contributing real-time data to a global portal, deep-sea gliders enable marine scientists to mutually benefit by creating a better assessment and understanding of the ocean and evaluating the ocean environment.”

Gliders like SILBO have the ability to go where it is impractical to send people. They can travel major distances over long periods of time, moving both horizontally and vertically through the ocean, continually gathering data.

The drones are also programmed to surface at designated times throughout their mission, allowing them to transmit the data they have collected to shore while at the same time downloading new mission instructions.

This two-way communications ability allows gliders to continually gather information about the most important and diverse regions of our ocean basins.

The Marine Institute says it is currently developing its capacity to use such gliders as they are an important tool for marine scientists to study and map the dynamic features of the ocean.

"With the opportunity to learn more about deep-sea glider capabilities, SILBO will be used for a training session led by Teledyne Webb Research at the Marine Institute's facilities in Galway,” Fitzgerald added.

“This will involve Irish and international glider technicians learning how to overhaul the glider and prepare it for its next mission before it is re-deployed from Irish shores to complete further mission transects for this global initiative.”

Published in Marine Science
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.

 

At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

At A Glance – Figaro Race

  • It starts in June or July from a French port.
  • The race is split into four stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average.
  • Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
  • The competitor is alone in the boat, participation is mixed.
  • Since 1990, all boats are of one design.

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