The robots, referred to as “spray gliders,” can dive 3,000 feet underwater. The gliders are able to go anywhere and are directed through a built-in GPS system similar to a smartphone.
There is currently one glider approximately 30 miles away from the oil spill.
“It’s 7 feet long, weighs about 100 pounds,” said Dan Rudnick, professor at Scripps. “It flies on wings.”
The spray glider’s purpose is to take temperature, salinity and ocean current measurements. The data is collected and fed back via satellite.
“You can think of it sort of like the National Weather Service. It predicts the wind in the atmosphere and we use this data to predict models for weather in the ocean,” Rudnick said.
On May 18, an onshore pipeline in Santa Barbara ruptured and leaked more than 100,000 gallons of crude on coastal lands and into the ocean near Refugio State Beach, Plains All-American Pipeline said. The federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard issued an order May 27 to the company, with timelines and clean-up requirements established under the federal Clean Water Act.
With the data, crews are able to gauge where the oil is likely to flow next depending on the ocean’s current.
Scripps has five underwater robots dispatched near the California coast at all times.
– San Diego Metro