Robot Sets Guinness World Record With 9,000-Mile Swim
December 5, 2012

Robot Sets Guinness World Record With 9,000-Mile Swim

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

In another tale of robots being used to complete the work once performed by humans and animals, one autonomous bot has just set a Guinness world record after traveling 9,000 nautical miles across the wide open Pacific Ocean.

While setting a world record is a fine achievement, the creators of this robot, a Silicon Valley startup called Liquid Robotics, have said their main goal was to collect huge amounts of data about the ocean. For more than a year, the PacX Wave Glider robot has been taking measurements and recording data slowly and surely, sending readings back wirelessly all the while.

This specific robot, called Papa Mau, was released with 3 other robots last year in a data collecting race. Liquid Robotics aimed 2 robots towards Japan and another 2 towards Australia. Papa Mau is the first Wave Glider to reach its intended destination at a harbor in Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia.

According to Graham Hine, the vice president at Liquid Robotics, Papa Mau landed on November 20. The other glider is set to land in Australia in February, while the other is scheduled to arrive in Japan in June 2013. A fourth Wave Glider was struck by a passing ship and was destroyed.

The Papa Mau also faced some hardships on its year-long journey to the Land Down Under, surviving gale force storms and shark attacks and later narrowly avoiding a dangerous run-in with the Great Barrier Reef.

“This shows you how robust these things are, and it showed us how much data it could collect,” said Ed Lu, the chief of innovative applications at Liquid Robotics, speaking to Venture Beat's Dean Takahashi. “These are very sophisticated, almost like small spacecraft.”

As it was carried along by currents and waves, Papa Mau collected a wealth of data, such as weather conditions at the equator which were much different than the team at Liquid Robotics had expected.

The well-traveled Wave Glider was also able to take a long, slow look at an algal bloom which covered 1,200 miles across the Pacific Ocean. Algal blooms are a little understood phenomenon where algae collect and gather in large numbers. These blooms are often green in color, but can also be red or yellow-brown. As Papa Mau was traveling across this bloom, it took many measurements and high-resolution images which will help scientists better understand why these blooms exist.

The journey of these 4 Wave Gliders has been part of the PacX (Pacific Crossing) experiment. As a part of PacX, Liquid Robotics has partnered with BP to offer groups a $50,000 grant scholarship as well as 6 free months of Wave Glider data and services. While Liquid Robotics doesn´t sell these Gliders, they do sell the information to oil companies, governments, etc.

“To say we are excited and proud of Papa Mau reaching his final destination is an understatement,” said Liquid Robotics CEO Bill Vass in a statement.

“We set off on the PacX journey to demonstrate that Wave Glider technology could not only survive the high seas and a journey of this length, but more importantly, collect and transmit ocean data in real-time from the most remote portions of the Pacific Ocean. We´ve demonstrated delivery of ocean data services through the most challenging ocean conditions," said Vaas. "Mission accomplished.”