500 floating robots to help monitor ocean health

DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL OCEAN BIOGEOCHEMISTRY ARRAY, SAYING:"We develop sensors and then we put them on robots, deploy them around the world ocean. The goal is to be able to monitor the health of the ocean in places where people don't go but once a decade."

A total of 500 floating robots will be deployed from the north Pacific to the Indian Ocean and beyond, as part of a project known as the Global Ocean Biogeochemistry Array (GO-BGC) over the next five years.

Courtesy: GO-BGC

Some of the devices already started monitoring the world’s most treacherous oceans since March, complete with computers, hydraulics, batteries, and an array of sensors that scientists hope will give them a more comprehensive picture of the ocean and its health in the years to come.

Ken Johnson is the project director and a senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California.

"So I'm convinced that that we have to have a better way to observe the ocean and that requires robots that will stay there. You know, hard to have a graduate student, convince them to stay in a ship for a year at a time. You know, no one just wants to do that. And the ships have to come in. They need fuel and food. So robots, robotic systems are the answer to doing this, to monitoring a really important part of the global ecosystem."

The monitors will retrieve information about the ocean’s: pH levels, salinity, temperature, pressure, oxygen and nitrate.

Those measurements will be taken at a depth of 3,280 feet where the float will drift in weaker currents for a little more than a week.

Then the float will descend to 6,500 feet before it will surface and transmit its data to shore via satellite.

The collected data will be made available to research institutions and schools for free, and it will help lead to better oceanic modelling, said George Matsumoto, a senior education and research specialist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

"So the data we pick up is just going to keep adding up over time. We don't expect these outrageous incredible results on day one. We may not even get it after one year but over the years as all the data starts to accumulate, we're learning more and more about the oceans. It's adding to the strength of the models, so the models are going to get much more accurate."