Boeing, Liquid Robotics build solar-powered, autonomous marine glider

An autonomous ocean vehicle manufactured in Australia and powered by the sun and waves is helping oceanographers monitor the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has completed a seven-day open water mission covering 200 nautical miles in waters off the coast of North Queensland.

The use of the Wave Glider is the first major milestone of a five-year joint research agreement between Boeing and AIMS.

The autonomous vehicle, developed by Boeing subsidiary Liquid Robotics, was deployed at the Great Barrier Reef to help assess the health of the coral reefs and ecosystems.

Providing continuous, real-time environmental ocean data using a suite of on-board sensors and software, the Wave Glider travels along the ocean’s surface, to take measurements include weather, wave heights, water salinity and pH levels, chlorophyll and more.

“We are impressed with the number of different measurements it could conduct at the same time and its ability to transmit the data back to our base immediately and reliably while navigating and performing its mission,” said Lyndon Llewellyn, AIMS head of Data and Technology Innovation.

Dr Llewellyn said this sort of technology allowed science to measure atmosphere and water over long periods of time because it can operate at sea for several months at a time while following a programmed course or being piloted remotely.

“It was quite extraordinary how the Wave Glider remained on its planned mission,” Llewellyn said. “It went where it was told to and it stayed the course like an orienteering champion.

“The Wave Glider technology will be an important tool to advance our mission to better monitor the Great Barrier Reef.”

Due to its autonomous nature, the Wave Glider frees up human resources to focus on science rather than the logistics of collecting data.

“Boeing and our Liquid Robotics team are proud to support AIMS in its mission to monitor the health of the Great Barrier Reef,” said Chris Raymond, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems.

“The demonstration proves how autonomous systems like our Wave Glider can improve upon human-based environmental data collection methods while also being safe and affordable.”