Autonomous robot completes 9,000 nautical-mile journey across Pacific Ocean

Written By: Thatcher Michelsen December 6, 2012 1
A drone built by California-based Liquid Robotics is capable of autonomously traveling across the Pacific Ocean. It recently completed a 9,000-mile journey that tested all of its components for nearly a year.
A drone built by California-based Liquid Robotics is capable of autonomously traveling across the Pacific Ocean. It recently completed a 9,000-mile journey that tested all of its components for nearly a year.

In what could be billed as the 21st century equivalent of "The Little Engine That Could," a self-directed drone built by a team from California-based Liquid Robotics has successfully finished its trip across the Pacific Ocean. The journey clocked in at nearly 9,000 nautical miles, or almost 17,000 kilometers.

The Wave Glider in question, known to the group by its nickname Papa Mau, is actually one of a series of autonomous robots that have been plying the Pacific Ocean for the past year as the company tests its new technology. While Papa Mau is taking a well-deserved rest, another is following close behind it while a third is headed toward Japan.

In addition to perfecting its navigation and control systems, Papa Mau was also equipped with an array of experimental scientific equipment. This initiative was intended to test the viability of self-steered research vessels, and judging by the data collected – the drone recorded part of a 1,200 mile-long strand of chlorophyll blooms – their mission was a success by all accounts.

"To say we are excited and proud of Papa Mau reaching his final destination is an understatement," Bill Vass, CEO of Liquid Robotics, was quoted as saying in a press release. "We set off on the PacX journey to demonstrate that Wave Glider technology could not only survive the high seas and a journey of this length, but more importantly, collect and transmit ocean data in real-time from the most remote portions of the Pacific Ocean."

After 365 days at sea, Papa Mau will most likely be used to means-test some of the company's later models. With the success of this plucky little robot, it wouldn't be a stretch of the imagination to see more autonomous drones coasting through the oceans.

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