Scientists in Chatham County are leading an effort to gather hurricane information with underwater robots. They’re called autonomous underwater vehicles or gliders. Dr. Catherine Edwards, an Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography established a network of universities to work on the project.the network is called SECOORA, the Southeastern Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association. ” Part of our mission, as a five university consortium between UGA, UNC, NC State, Georgia Tech and the University of South Florida, is to provide this kind of regional coverage.” Edwards said, adding, ” We’ve been deploying a number of gliders from Cape Canaveral and having them zig-zag all the way from Florida all the way up to North Carolina and we think this kind of mission, where you’re basically making temperature heat maps of the coastal ocean all the way out to the Gulf Stream, will be really useful in helping to understand how hurricanes work.” said Edwards.
NOAA, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association is funding the effort. Dr. Edwards says the gliders can stay deployed for weeks at a time and they have advantages over a traditional research vessel. “There’s a lot of times we can’t get out onto the water and the cost of that is one-one-hundredth of what it would be to, to use a capable research vessel.” said Edwards, adding the data collection is not all about weather data, these robots open up a world of information under the sea. The gliders are equipped with a sensor array that can detect fish that have been tagged by scientist and relay that information back through an on-board satellite phone. “It’s really compelling for people to think about how robots can be used to study fish.” Dr. Edwards said.