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From sky to sea: drones hit the ocean


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From sky to sea: drones hit the ocean

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They’ve been flying through our skies for years.

Now, unmanned drones are hitting the high seas.

The Wave Glider is the brainchild of California-based tech company Liquid Robotics. Powered by the sun and waves, it travels on the ocean’s surface and can stay at sea for months collecting weather data and other scientific information.

“They have the ability to share data between themselves, so if you need more processing power, they’ll call their friends over. And so the future is having large numbers of them working together,” says Bill Vass, president and ceo of Liquid Robotics.

It’s hoped the data will help a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/world-on-a-plate/2014/apr/11/ipcc-environment-food-security-agriculture-crops-fisheries-innovation" rel="external">fishermen face the challenge of migrating marine life by tracking down their catch, and that the Wave Glider will double as a tool for marine animal surveys to help policy-makers maintain fisheries at sustainable levels.

Also born in the US, the Saildrone
is a cross between a sailboat and a robot.

Back in 2013, it set the world distance record for an autonomous wind-powered boat when it sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii.

Built not only to gather scientific data from some of the most remote areas of the world, these drones are also being used to patrol borders and protect endangered reefs.

“Policing is a very important role. So the government and Coast Guard is struggling to police not only borders for drug trafficking, but also the natural monuments, the atolls in the Pacific, the no catch zones and stopping illegal fishing. So we can be out there with a camera and a radar and reporting back on any vessel that goes through the area,” says Saildrone ceo Richard Jenkins.

Future uses include monitoring ocean acidification – a key barometer of climate change – checking waters around oil rigs for the first signs of a spill and protecting tagged marine animals.

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