No, it’s not a mini-bot with a pool noodle, but it might well be oceanography’s newest tool.
Without the use of fuel, a self-guided, seafaring robot has just completed its one-year, 9,000-mile journey between San Francisco and Australia. Dubbed Papa Mau after a Micronesian sailor who was also an unconventional navigator, this intrepid automaton known as the Wave Glider converted the ocean’s wave energy into forward motion for its underwater fins and used solar panels on its surfboard-like body to power diagnostic instruments.
Gathering information about the Pacific Ocean’s health, Papa Mau survived high seas, storms, and sharks to prove the concept that these small, relatively inexpensive robot researchers can do the science-gathering job of larger vessels whose crews can spend months at sea.
Liquid Robotics, the company who created Papa Mau, already has three other Wave Gliders on the seas, and other companies are also exploring the future on marine robotics.