Underwater robot begins mission to track ocean data

UMass Dartmouth’s ocean glider “Blue” captures late spring Cold Pool ocean data in preparation for the summer hurricane season

Dr. Wendell Brown, Chief Scientist and Professor at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology, along with his team Matthew Grossi (Research Associate), Kathryn Tremblay (Research Assistant), and Ray Rock (Captain of the R/V Lucky Lady) launched glider "Blue" west of Martha’s Vineyard from the RV Lucky Lady last week.


The five-foot underwater robot, scientifically referred to as the autonomous underwater vehicle, will spend the next month assisting scientists in the collection of ocean data by running programmed routes south of New England. "One objective is to locate the Cold Pool – a swath of bottom trapped cold water between Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras. This an important feature of the habitat for various fisheries; and if brought to the surface can dampen hurricane intensity,” says Brown. The sophisticated device contains a built-in computer, transmitter, GPS receiver, battery pack, steering fin and antenna, altitude meter nose, and buoyancy pump for diving and rising.


The glider operates by translating small changes in buoyancy into forward motion with each dive or surfacing, so the glider takes measurements along a serrated (or saw-toothed) cross-section of the water column. At the surface, the glider exchanges information with “home base.”

These features allow the glider to dive and surface continuously to collect ocean data over a several week period; all the while transmitting data, including temperature, GPS location and those from various other sensors, to “home base” via the iridium satellite system.

Additionally, due to its wide variety of sensors, the glider also has the ability to monitor water currents, tagged fish, and water quality. The ocean glider data also aids in climate monitoring, dye tracking, ocean acidification sampling.


School for Marine Science and Technology, Research