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Wave Glider Robot Helps Forecast Hurricane Isaac's Path

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the finding-terrorists-under-the-sea dept.

Communications 35

redletterdave writes with news of a drone that's helping weather forecasters this hurricane season. From the article: "Hurricane prediction is not always an exact science — back in 2005, Hurricane Rita was projected to hit Houston, but missed the region entirely — but the NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) is already on the case. A few weeks ago today, the agency launched an experimental Wave Glider robot named Alex into the ocean, hoping the unmanned drone can forecast the direction of future storms. The Wave Glider, which is completely powered by the waves and the sun thanks to solar panels and a unique thrust engine, contains a GPS unit, satellite communications systems, and sensors for measuring water temperature, wind speed, and various wave characteristics. With its ability to withstand strong winds and thrashing waters — which are typically prohibitive for humans and even aerial vehicles — and its ability to theoretically drift in the ocean endlessly without refueling, a single Wave Glider could be used to monitor not just one storm, but several hurricanes occurring over an entire seasonal period. The NOAA hopes to soon use more Wave Glider robots like Alex to help determine more accurate hurricane watches and warnings."

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Wrong in headline (4, Informative)

Fwipp (1473271) | about 2 years ago | (#41167671)

The robot doesn't look like it's intended to help predict anything about Isaac.

From TFA:
The NOAA believes Alex will find itself in a hurricane this coming fall.

The NOAA isn't quite ready to use Wave Glider robots like Alex to directly determine hurricane warnings and watches, but at the moment, the organization is taking notes and testing the device to assume these roles sometime in the near future.

the lee shore (2)

goombah99 (560566) | about 2 years ago | (#41167839)

I wonder how these things manage to hold a position and not wind up washed up on a lee shore.

Re:the lee shore (3, Informative)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 2 years ago | (#41168229)

The 'propulsion' system is meters below the surface so it acts like an drogue slowing the craft down. It won't be blown with the wind.

I'm sure during a storm it moves multiple miles from initial position, but when you're 100-200 miles offshore that's not going to be an issue. After the storm passes it, it resumes moving about normally.

Re:the lee shore (5, Informative)

GonzoPhysicist (1231558) | about 2 years ago | (#41169187)

They actually have much better station keeping than this. The submerged part is not a sea anchor so much as horizontal sail that as it goes up and down pulls the float along, it uses this motion to drive in little circles around its station. They can only move about a knot and a half but have such a low profile as to be unaffected by the wind. I know this because I am sitting next to one in our lab.

Re:the lee shore (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 2 years ago | (#41169481)

It doesn't just go in circles though correct? It's remotely controllable as to direction isn't it?

I suspect that in a hurricane, wind affected or not, it's gonna move off station...at lease a bit ;-)

Re:the lee shore (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 2 years ago | (#41170651)

I know this because I am sitting next to one in our lab.

Oh shit. Does it know we're talking about it?!

advertencia: skynet onboard! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 2 years ago | (#41172083)

Stupid ibtimes link is educated stupid.

So this thing [liquidr.com] has graduated from hunting great white sharks to hurricanes in less than a week?!!

Re:the lee shore (4, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#41168747)

I watched the video (and some more on Youtube) about this thing, it's a really intersting way of propulsion.

First of all this thing is very flat and low in the water, they add a small mast with what looks like a light beacon and probably a radar reflector to make it visible. The rest of the craft is flat. Wind will not have much grip on such a craft.

Then the propulsion: it's a set of fins that's suspended several meters below the floating craft. The craft is dragged up and down by the waves, moving the fins vertically through the water. These fins flip in such a manner that the vertical movement is converted into forward propulsion. The rudder is also attached to these fins, and the fins pull the craft in the desired direction. Strong wind means big waves, which should result in strong propulsion. I don't think wind as such is doing much when it comes to pushing this craft off its course.

All in all it looks really interesting, and quite simple. The wave action is used for the propulsion, solar panels provide power for the rest (such as sensors, communication, navigation).

They make things too complicated! (1)

MicrosoftRepresentit (1002310) | about 2 years ago | (#41167873)

Why dont they just point another telescope at their main telescope to see further into space so they can see the planets properly?

Re:Wrong in headline (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 2 years ago | (#41168179)

Well the headline of TFA is...wait for it.... "Hurricane Isaac 2012: Wave Glider Robot ‘Alex’ Helps Forecast Path, Track and Trajectory of Storm:"

The 'summary' here is basically the first few paragraphs of the article as well. /. didn't do anything other than report the story as written.

Link to Wave Glider Description (4, Informative)

cruff (171569) | about 2 years ago | (#41167677)

Is it really too hard to put a link to the details? Wave Glider Description [liquidr.com]

Re:Link to Wave Glider Description (1)

condition-label-red (657497) | about 2 years ago | (#41168973)

These wave gliders are surprisingly fast: 0.4 to 2.0 knots [liquidr.com] !

Re:Link to Wave Glider Description (2)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#41169389)

The Gulf Stream current (for example) is 3 or 4 knots [navy.mil] typically. I wonder if that means WaveRider is not fast enough to keep station or move upstream in major ocean currents.

This form of propulsion is so clever, it is just dying for a racing league - who knows what speeds might be possible? But I wonder what the patent situation is.

Forecasting lawsuit (5, Funny)

space_jake (687452) | about 2 years ago | (#41167797)

Blizzard is not going to be happy the glider bot is back.

Re:Forecasting lawsuit (1)

xQuarkDS9x (646166) | about 2 years ago | (#41167835)

Blizzard is not going to be happy the glider bot is back.

OH if only I had mod points! You have made my day sir! :D

Re:Forecasting lawsuit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41168883)

Iran is already claiming to have captured one and says it will mass produce them for their cutoff WoW'ers.

Value of this program (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41167849)

So basically it is a sensing buoy tethered to a small UUV. Is this going to be cheaper than replacing damaged normal sensing buoys in a storm? What is the cost benefit analysis?

BTW - James Gosling (3, Interesting)

dubbayu_d_40 (622643) | about 2 years ago | (#41167893)

Is the Chief Software Architect at Liquid Robotics.

OR (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#41167921)

I think "Alex" is used for Skynet to direct the hurricanes where it wishes. What better way our robotic overlords to throw us off, catch cities unprepared, and serve as precursors for the robot apocalypse?

Robocode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41168203)

Did anyone else think of using the Wave Surfing Robot [robowiki.net] model?

Re:Robocode (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#41168451)

That's a model for finding minimum-risk movement paths. Nothing to do with the ocean...
(I say this having spent my entire day working on a monte-carlo/particle filter alternative to wave surfing...)

The headline is a little misleading... (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 2 years ago | (#41168559)

The Glider Robot provides more data that CAN be used to increase the accuracy of hurricane prediction models.

The track prediction for Hurricane Isaac has been revised at almost every full advisory update, so I wouldn't use it as an example of its prediction capabilities.

Science reporting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41168891)

"Hurricane prediction is not always an exact science"

Hurricane prediction is never "an exact science". If Rita had hit Houston instead of missing, the forecast science would have been no more "exact". The result simply sits within one side of the probability; which it sits in does not change the probability.

Wisky Tango Foxtrot, over (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41169013)

" back in 2005, Hurricane Rita was projected to hit Houston, but missed the region entirely " - It may not have Houston dead on, but it was certainly in the region, and Houston felt the affects.

Re:Wisky Tango Foxtrot, over (1)

cubby96 (2566085) | about 2 years ago | (#41172261)

Agreed. I lived in the Houston metro area at that time and my house lost shingles during Rita - many of my friends lost power. Not sure how this is 'missing the region entirely.' Is it a bad summary or a bad article? I don't really care to dig myself, but perhaps someone who has RTFA can enlighten us.

Real environment (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 2 years ago | (#41169247)

With its ability to withstand strong winds and thrashing waters...

Fine, but how will it withstand being coated in crude oil and attacked by plastic garbage bags?

I Don't Care What Anyone Says (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41169479)

Saying "The NOAA..." sounds totally weird.

Video of propulsion in action. (1)

BenFenner (981342) | about 2 years ago | (#41170377)

Here's a video of the propulsion in action for those like me who just had to see how it works.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eATawqVOXWI [youtube.com]

Autonomous Gliders (1)

habig (12787) | about 2 years ago | (#41171643)

This is similar to the autonomous glider [webbresearch.com] the people at the Large Lakes Observatory [umn.edu] use to get data from something that's not moored in one place like research bouys are. The unit here in Duluth cruises around Lake Superior for a few weeks at a time, but they're standard equipment for oceanographers in bigger, saltier puddles too.

It uses the same means of propulsion: turning up-and-down motion into forward motion with wings. Its power source, however, is some onboard batteries rather than a solar cell limiting its endurance (but freeing it from dragging around the solar rig, so it can go deeper and faster). All the battery does is change the volume of a swim bladder, causing the glider to float or sink. Amazing efficient!

NO FUN!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41172321)

Oh I sure hope these little robots don't make fun flights like these [wunderground.com] unnecessary!

Wonder how much its worth? (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | about 2 years ago | (#41172667)

Is it just a matter of time before people in boats stop looking for square grouper and start looking for $5M wave gliders to scoop up?

Katrina (1)

AssholeMcGee (2521806) | about 2 years ago | (#41175169)

They said Katrina was suppose to ride the west coast of Florida, then they changed it to the Florida Panhandle, and Alabama. Then it changed to hitting the southeast /northeast part of Texas, it is only within about 16-24 hours before the storm finally hit, and of course you all know where that was!! This was all in 4 days, what really bothered me about this was how the weather stations got off without any blame, but the idiot press managed to blame everyone else. You cannot really blame anyone, given how unpredictable these storms are, and people that live in Hurricane prone areas almost always blow off any predictions until the storm is on the coastline. And buy the way was is not scientist who said global warming was suppose to cause more Hurricanes, and ones with higher strength? Since Katrina is has been pretty calm! And the weather has indeed been warmer..

drones in war on weather! (1)

feepcreature (623518) | about 2 years ago | (#41176825)

So does this mean that in the war on weather, we can use the drones to shoot down hurricanes and suspected hurricanes before they reach the US?

Great news, I think (clearly I didn't have time to read the summary).

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