With the number of shark sightings and shark attacks in the news these days (a Massachusetts man survived a brutal attack off the coast of Cape Cod in July, and five people have been killed by sharks in Australia in the past year), it's only fitting that a team of Stanford University engineers should develop a robot that follows great whites and transmits data about them back to shore.
The Wave Glider, developed and designed by the Stanford engineers and Liquid Robotics, was recently launched into the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco. It's a 7-foot-long yellow surfboard with a boat-like propulsion system, and it's powered using solar energy.
The solar-powered Wave Glider includes an acoustic receiver that tracks the location of sharks. Information from the tags is transmitted along a network of buoys in areas where sharks are known to congregate and connects to an iPhone/iPad app so users also can follow the sharks, as well as view interactive maps and information about them. (Source: Stanford University)
The shark finder (let's call it what it is), is part of a larger ocean data network comprising fixed buoys serving as wireless hotspots deployed in places where sharks tend to congregate between Monterey Bay and Tomales Bay near San Francisco.
Part of Stanford marine sciences professor Barbara Block’s "Blue Serengeti Initiative," the Wave Glider includes an acoustic receiver that will track sharks fitted with acoustic tags throughout the rest of the summer and into fall to inform Stanford marine researchers about their behavior.
“Our goal is to use revolutionary technology that increases our capacity to observe our oceans and census populations, improve fisheries management models, and monitor animal responses to climate change,” Block said in a press release.
Block hopes to eventually extend this so-called “wired ocean” down the entire west coast of North America and use a fleet of Wave Gliders to track, not only sharks, but other fish and large ocean predators.
iPhone and iPad users also can remotely observe the sharks through a free Shark Net. Block created the app with developers from mobile app development companies EarthNC and Gaia GPS, as well as with developers from the international Census of Marine Life’s Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) project -- of which Block’s Blue Serengeti is an extension.
The app notifies users when a shark that’s being tracked passes within about 1,000 feet of one of the hotspot buoys, and explores the regions the sharks inhabit through customizable interactive maps. It also includes a media gallery with photos, videos, historical tracking data, and 3D interactive models of the sharks and the region in which they live. The models also include buoys and Wave Gliders, as well as realistic photos of the specific sharks being tracked, including information about the physical markings that make them identifiable to researchers following them.
Good question, Chuck. I'm also wondering what portion of the great white population is tagged. If it's a small portion, a reading that says there are no sharks in the area won't indicate any real safety.
Clinton, the Wave Glider is an amazing machine. We included it in our Nautical Robots slideshow: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=246206&image_number=3 It's won world distance records for unmanned devices, traveling more than 3,200 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean. I think it recently broke that distance record. You can check out its specs here: http://liquidr.com/technology/wave-glider-specifications/
The amount of punishment this device will experience out on the open sea will be tremendous. Did they mention any of the provisions or features they included to help it survive? For example, how does the craft right itself after being flipped by waves?
I was totally tongue-in-cheek with a dash of devil's advocate. As a sensors guy, I love this story. I'm especially jazzed about the "Bue Serengeti Initiative". It is difficult to make effective policy and manage resources effectively if all you have to base it on is intuition and gut feeling --- hard data is always the answer. =]
@williamlweaver - based on the world we live in today, you are probably not too far off when you say the great whites will be filing a suit regarding privacy. I'm sure there is an activist group out there who thinks this is just plain wrong/inhumane.
I, however, applaud this effort and hope to see it expanded. We sure could use it up here in Massachusetts.
Why should the location of 7 Billion Humans be the only thing that is tracked? Let's start tracking all of the planet's organisms. That is of course until the Great Whites file a class action law suit for privacy violations. ...why else would Lawyers be called "sharks"?
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