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The four vessels

Liquid Robotics launched a fleet of four wave-powered oceanic robots called Wave Gliders on a record setting journey today across the Pacific.

On a mission to gather gather vast amounts of data, which they hope will be used to foster new scientific discoveries, Liquid Robotics' Wave Gliders use an array of sensors to survey the oceans and will transmit the data in real time. All of the data collected during the year long journey available to anyone who chooses to follow the mission.

With water compromising 71 percent of the Earth's surface and only 5 percent of the world's oceans yet explored, Liquid Robotics is calling the exploration a challenge to the world to decide what the data mean and how to use it.

The value in this vast amount of data never collected before is unknown, and researchers hope that making the data available in an open-source system will push boundaries and advance oceanic sciences.

During the 300-plus-day mission, the four Wave Gliders will collectively travel more than 33,000 miles and map more than 2,250,000 data points, collecting ocean data on salinity, water temperatures, waves, weather, fluorescence, and dissoved oxygen.

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Wave Gliders

The Wave Gliders require no manpower, no fuel, and have no emissions. They move by converting ocean waves into motion, with sensory equipment powered by the sun.

The robots have two parts, the Float, which rides on the surface of the water much like a surfboard, and the miniblind-like Sub, or Glider, which is beneath the surface, tethered 22 feet below the Float.

At a production cost of around $250,000, and rental costs of just a few thousand dollars a day, the Wave Gliders are challenging the traditional economics of such data collection and exploration.

Typically, traditional research ships costs around $30,000 to $50,000 per day to operate.

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No fuel, no emissions

As the Float bobs on the ocean waves, the Glider portion below the water is pulled up and down. The six fins, seen here, on either side of the Float, move independently with the tugging of the tether, and the up and down motion provides the forward thrust to propel the Wave Glider vessel forward.

Typically the speed averages around 1.5 to 2 knots, but even in calm, glassy waters, the device will move at about half a knot.

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High tech surfboards

The Float is a surfboard-like platform, outfitted with an array of data-collecting sensors and tracking devices, including the Automatic Identification System (AIS) radio frequency navigation system, which tracks all maritime traffic, visible at MarineTraffic.com.

Each of the four Wave Gliders are named after famous ocean enthusiasts, the one seen here named "Benjamin" after Benjamin Franklin.

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Solar panels provide electricity for sensor payloads

Two 40-watt solar panels on each Wave Glider, along with a Lithium-ion rechargeable battery, provide the electricity for the sensor payloads.

Here the four Wave Gliders are seen aboard a boat at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco before being towed out through the Golden Gate where the will be launched from a few miles off shore.

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Conductivity, temperature, and depth

Mounted on the bottom of the Float, just below the surface, is the Seabird GPCTD with Dissolved Oxygen Sensor, or CTD--an acronym for conductivity, temperature, and depth, which is a standard oceanic observation tool for determining essential physical properties of sea water.

A constant flow of water through the device gives a comprehensive charting of the distribution and variation of water temperature, salinity, and density.

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Mounted camera

A forward-looking Canon G10 mounted on the rear of the Float gives scientists the ability to obtain visual data from the Wave Gliders.

The camera take images on demand and transmits them in real time. Due to the slow speeds of the satellite data connection, the camera is not often used, but when needed can provide valuable visual information about the location of the vessel.

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Weather station

The tallest tower on the Wave Glider is the Airmar PB200 WeatherStation, which measures air temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, wind gust speed, and wind direction one meter above the deck of the Wave Glider.

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Fluorometer measures chlorophyll-A

The Turner Designs C3 Submersible Fluorometer measures chlorophyll-A and crude oil fluorescence, as well as turbidity and water temperature just below the float of the Wave Glider, collecting data on the clarity of the water as well as information on what might be effecting the clarity.

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The Wave Glider's GPS unit

The Wave Glider's GPS unit, mounted on the center of the Float tracks the exact location.

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Wave Glider Rudder

The Wave Glider's rudder contains the vessel's compass, so that operators thousands of miles away know which direction they are pointed at all times.

The vehicle is easily configured and navigates along preset points. If desired, a remote operator can "steer" the vehicle as they wish by altering those points during the course of sailing.

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