Scientists say new self-driving robots could change the face of open ocean research

Scientists say new self-driving robots could change the face of open ocean research

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Scientists participating in a program based out of the University of Hawaii say they have made a major break-through on how they conduct ocean research.

"This is a very exciting day for science," said David Karl, an oceanography professor in UH Manoa's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

A team of 16 scientists from the Simons Collaboration on Oceans Processes and Ecology (SCOPE) program, an international research consortium held at U.H. Manoa, returned today from a month-long expedition to study the impacts that two open-ocean eddies north of Hawaii are having on the ocean's ecology.

They used specialized equipment called "Long-Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicles," which are self-driving robots that are able to collect data and archive water samples from the swirling masses of water.

It was the first time these drones have ever been used in the open ocean, and researchers say they set a new record for the length of time they spent underwater while retrieving samples from the eddies.

"These robots are very sophisticated. We can talk to them with Earth orbiting satellite communication with commands. We can order them to dive to various depths, to follow features, and in fact in this particular set of experiments, we collected water samples and brought them back," said Karl.

There are only six of these drones in the world, and with the joint effort of multiple organizations, three of them were sent here to the islands for to be used for SCOPE research.

The scientists brought back more than two thousand pounds of water from the trip, which they will soon analyze for a better understanding of the current and future health of the world's oceans.

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