Underwater Robots Track Oil and Ocean Life

Gliders in the Gulf are measuring currents and looking for oil. Could they follow fish, too?

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A month into one of the worst oil spills in history, oceanographers have deployed a fleet of unmanned torpedo-shaped submersibles to track the slick and predict where it’s headed. Host Steven Cherry talks with associate professor Peter Winsor of University of Alaska Fairbanks about what these gliders are doing in the Gulf and how they might also be used to track fish populations in the Arctic seas.


Webb's thermally-driven robotic glider

thermal2.jpg Everyone lately is covering the thermally powered glider developed by Webb Research. Last week I attended the AUVSI/ONR Joint Review in Orlando, Florida, and I got to listen to someone from Webb talk a bit about their glider and how it works. Gliders in general are a version of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), but with one important distinction: they are buoyancy-driven, rather than using a propeller to generate thrust underwater. Gliders maintain the torpedo-like shape of traditional AUVs but typically have wings that provide an extra …