The unmanned Wave Glider SV3, named the Gulf Explorer, is adding its services to the post-Hurricane Harvey effort. The machine will collect real-time data of the incredible rain accumulations that are pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. The information will help determine how the rainfall will affect ecosystems, coral reefs, and water quality.
Texas A&M University teamed up with the manufacturer of the wave glider Liquid Robotics to bring this design to fruition.
Researchers have dubbed the freshwater (totaling to roughly 11 trillion gallons) hurdling from the river deltas into the Gulf as the “freshwater plume.” The plume has reportedly spread 30 miles from the coast, and will potentially threaten the coral reefs in the Flow Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.
Additional freshwater-plume consequences include low oxygen levels, algal blooms, and low salinity which can harm saltwater habitats, corals, and other Gulf organisms. With the stakes in mind, researchers made a quick effort to launch a research vehicle.
The Gulf Explorer was deployed from research vessel RV Manta about 25 nautical miles from Galveston, Texas. This particular area is where freshwater invasion was apparent.
This development is coming off the recent enhancements of Liquid Robotics’ Wave Glider platform in high sea states and high latitudes.
“Changes also include advancements for expanded sensor payloads and increased energy and storage capacity required for long duration maritime surveillance, environmental monitoring, and observation missions,” according to the press release.
The Gulf Explorer will collect data for the next 60 days. Specifically, temperature and salinity measurements will be gathered every 5 minutes, which will be sent to a shore station every 30 minutes.
Watch the Gulf Explorer’s deployment in the time-lapse video below.