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Seafaring robots shatter unmanned crossing record

Gosling's machines plough on

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Four ocean-going robots from James Gosling’s employer Liquid Robotics have succeeded in securing a Guinness world record.

The Wave Gliders have broken the record for an unmanned wave-powered vehicle by crossing 3,200 miles (5,150km) of Pacific water, breaking the previous record of 2,500 miles (4,023km).

The Gliders achieved their record on the first leg of their 9,000 nautical mile journey to collect data on the state of the world’s largest ocean.

The mission is to hoover up 2.25 million data points in real time on salinity, water temperature, waves, weather, fluorescence, and levels of dissolved oxygen.

Liquid Robotics’ chief of innovation applications, Edward Lu, said in a press release celebrating the record:

I have no doubt new ocean discoveries, insights, and applications will emerge from the PacX data set. PacX represents a new model for providing widespread and easy access to environmental monitoring of the world's oceans, one in which Liquid Robotics operates fleets of mobile, autonomous ocean robots across previously inaccessible areas of the ocean.

The Wave Gliders conduct their mission using a mix of wave and solar power. Forward motion is achieved using power from a from a grid of vanes attached below the surface of the water, which move up and down as waves lift and drop the robot. Electricity for the on-board communications, guidance and back-up systems is generated by solar panels.

Launched on 17 November, 2011, from San Francisco Bay, California, the pod of bots completed the first leg of their mission upon arrival at Hawaii’s Big Island.

During that journey they survived 26ft (7.9m) waves and turbulent ocean currents.

Java-daddy Gosling, who joined Liquid Robotics as chief software architect in August last year, has been tracking the machines’ progress on his blog here.

On the next leg of their trip, the machines will split into two teams. One unit will cross the Mariana Trench – the deepest point in the Ocean at at least 6.78 miles down (about 11km) – and tackle the Kuroshio Current, the second strongest current in the world after the Gulf Stream, en route to Japan. Both groups are expected to make landfall in late 2012 or early 2013. ®

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