The Beacon

Blog Tags: Robots

Fleet of Gliding Robots Collect Ocean Data

A slocum glider, with its wings, is prepped before deployment. (Photo: Christena MacDonald, OTN/MEOPAR)

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s an ocean-going robot! Scientists from the United States and Canada are teaming up to launch up to 14 ocean-monitoring robotic gliders. These gliders are collecting data on ocean conditions and marine life along the eastern seaboard, traveling from the coast to the edge of the continental shelf.

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The Scanner: On the Bright Side Edition

surfing alpaca

© REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

Happy Friday, ocean fans. It's almost spring, and a surfing alpaca exists in the world. Things are looking up.

Before we get to the week's best marine tidbits, an important announcement: Oceana board member Ted Danson will be answering questions live on on April 1, so send your ocean queries in, stat!

Also, don't forget that today is the last day to take the Ocean IQ quiz for a chance to win prizes, including a trip with SEE Turtles.

This week in ocean news,

…Yes, CITES failed to deliver on bluefin tuna yesterday, but as Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Julie Packard pointed out, at least the conversation is changing. Bluefin is now in the same rhetorical realm as endangered land creatures such as tigers and elephants.

…Deep Sea News wrote a requiem for a robot -- the Autonomous Benthic Explorer (ABE) that was lost at sea last week during a research expedition to the Chilean Subduction Zone. On a recent dive, ABE had detected evidence of hydrothermal vents. At the time of its loss, ABE had just begun a second dive to home into a vent site and photograph it.

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Robots - EEK!

An urgent and disturbing news story came across my desk this week and I felt the need to share it. ROBOTS ARE TAKING OVER THE OCEAN! Maybe I am getting ahead of myself… let me back-peddle.

Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and the majority of them are unexplored. As oceanographer Robert Ballard put it on the Colbert Report last February, one year of NASA’s budget would be able to fund 1,600 years of NOAA’s exploration budget. Translation: There is a lot we don’t know about our own planet.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the good folks over at Scripps Institution of Oceanography have been developing a way to explore and monitor the oceans. The solution: robots.

The idea is that large groups, up to hundreds, of autonomous underwater explorers (AUEs) would swarm around in the ocean like a school of fish. They would report data back to larger “mothership” robots.

The potential benefits of this project are great. This type of monitoring can give us a better idea of how certain pollution affects the ocean. It can also give scientists a better picture of where they might advise for marine protected areas.

Right off the bat, that sounds good. But at what cost?

Are we unleashing swarms of drone robots that will someday become self-aware like Skynet? Will these robots rise up in an attempt to establish dominance over the human race?

Okay, so both those scenarios are far fetched. But any time you introduce something new into an ecosystem, be it biological or not, there needs to be a measure of caution exercised… even if the eventuality is not submission to our robot overlords. Just look at Nutria!

This probably is not the start of a robot–led human apocalypse, but just in case I am keeping my dad, John Connor, on call and hoping the people at Scripps consult with Isaac Asimov in their programming.

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