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Wave Glider Robot Helps Forecast Hurricane Isaac's Path 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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Wave Glider Robot Helps Forecast Hurricane Isaac's Path

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  • Wrong in headline (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fwipp ( 1473271 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @11:41AM (#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.

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

      • Re:the lee shore (Score:4, Informative)

        by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @12:19PM (#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 (Score:5, Informative)

          by GonzoPhysicist ( 1231558 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @01:32PM (#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.
          • 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 ;-)
          • I know this because I am sitting next to one in our lab.

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

      • Re:the lee shore (Score:5, Informative)

        by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @12:57PM (#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).

    • 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.
  • by cruff ( 171569 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @11:41AM (#41167677) Homepage
    Is it really too hard to put a link to the details? Wave Glider Description [liquidr.com]
  • by space_jake ( 687452 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @11:49AM (#41167797)
    Blizzard is not going to be happy the glider bot is back.
    • 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

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dubbayu_d_40 ( 622643 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @11:55AM (#41167893)

    Is the Chief Software Architect at Liquid Robotics.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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]
  • 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 limi

  • 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?

  • 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
  • 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).

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford