Terrified Of Typhoons? This California-Made Seafaring Robot Certainly Isn't

A California-designed robot has just weathered a typhoon which would send most human mariners scurrying for shore.

The robot, known as the Wave Glider, survived a direct encounter with the typhoon known as Rammasun, fending off nine-meter waves and gusts of wind up to two hundred and sixteen kilometers per hour. All the while, it continued to fulfill its intended purpose - to gather data on sea surface conditions. Impressive, no?

Seems there's something to the claim by creator Liquid Robotics that Wave Glider is 'built for durability.' 

It gets better. Apparently, Rammasun is the strongest typhoon to hit the region in decades. It's left over one hundred fifty people dead in the Philippines, Vietnam, and China, and has done hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in the process. Yet somehow, Wave Glider survived the ordeal completely unscathed.

 "To our knowledge, this is the most powerful storm that a Wave Glider or any other sea robotic system has weathered successfully at the sea surface," explained Graham Hine, senior vice president at Sunnyvale-based Liquid Robotics. "Interestingly, the telemetry shows no degradation of the system, so all of the sensing systems and vehicle performance seem to be nominal."

"The hope is that by getting more measurements at the sea surface and really understanding how the energy is transferred from the sea water to the air and vice versa is pretty critical to being able to predict the intensity of the hurricane when it hits shore," he added.

Wave Glider was deployed for an unnamed corporate customer of Liquid Robotics, and will be recovered in about a week. The company currently has two hundred fifty similar vessels deployed all around the world. Each robot is equipped with sensors that allow it to measure oceanographic conditions including temperature, barometric pressure, and the speed and direction of wind and currents. They're also equipped with Satellite, Cellular, and Wi-Fi communications to transmit the data they gather.

This isn't the first time a Wave Glider has survived an encounter with something hostile. The machines, which can swim for months on end, have been recovered with embedded shark teeth and jellyfish tentacles. One Wave Glider even managed a 16,600 kilometer trek across the Pacific Ocean.

So...what's the secret to Wave Glider's durability, exactly? The robot appears, for all intents and purposes, to be nearly indestructible. How exactly did Liquid Robotics accomplish that? 

Part of it is the simplicity of the robot's design. Although it incorporates a great deal of complex technology, the Wave Glider consists of a floating, surfboard-like platform powered by solar panels. A customizable sensor array is tacked on to the top of the robot, which is tethered approximately twenty feet below the surface. A number of configurable 'hinged' flaps on the anchor allow the robot to use the waves themselves to propel it through the sea.

There are certain tasks that robots are naturally going to be able to do better than humans. Apparently, surviving a typhoon is one such task.  I don't doubt that Liquid Robotics is rather pleased with this turn of events. After all, it's demonstrated just how durable the Wave Glider really is.