Wave Glider Drone Dives For Data On Great Barrier Reef

11th October 2017

Great Barrier Reef

Relieving scientists from difficult to access and time consuming work, a new high-tech drone has been praised with improving the data capture and monitoring of the precious World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

Known as the Wave Glider, the ocean-going drone recently completed a 7 day mission on coastal waters and parts of the Great Barrier Reef, where it transmitted real-time information to scientists who can then analyse the data and assess the health of the reef.

Part of a 5 year research deal between Boeing subsidiary Liquid Robotics and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the drone gathered data on wave height, water salinity, chlorophyll and pH levels. The drone was developed by Liquid Roots and will be used by scientists to get to hard-to-reach locations.

Head of data and technology innovation at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Lyndon Llewellyn says the drone is powered by energy generated by the sun and the waves and had stayed the course on its first mission. An autonomous drone, the Wave Glider frees up scientists from having to collect the data themselves.

“For us, where we have a limited number of people that can go into the environment and generate the data, having tools that extend our capability without having to put people in the field is really quite beneficial,” Dr Llewellyn told The Australian.

Unlike a person, the drone can work 24/7 which offers many benefits according to Dr Llewellyn.

“It can do things at night-time and go into some locations where it’s harder for us to get our people into because to get them there we need to put them on a large research vessel, and so that makes it challenging in some locations” he said.

Executive vice president of business development at Liquid Robotics, Dan Middleton say the drone can be sent on missions of up to 6 months or even more.

Mr Middleton said the Wave Glider can carry a number of sensors that regularly communicate data back to shore.