Marine Robotics Networks


Dr. Sarma Yellepeddi preparing gliders from the dock at KAUST

Autonomous underwater vehicles known as gliders will be used to provide sustained observations of the Red Sea at several locations along the coast. These vehicles are capable of staying at sea for weeks to months and can profile from the surface to a maximum depth of 1000 meters, while travelling at a speed of 0.3 m/s (~1 km/hour). The vehicle’s path is determined by a set of waypoints that are uploaded to the glider prior to the deployment, and these waypoints can be modified by communications with the glider during deployment. The vehicles are capable of carrying several sensors that provide various measurements. Gliders surface periodically to obtain a GPS position, to communicate its position and a subset of the data during each surface communications.

Schematic of a glider flight path (image courtesy of the University of Washington, USA)

The gliders can provide several products while they are operating:

  1. Real-time mapping and telemetry of hydrographic and related variables that are used for assimilation into real-time models, and for adaptive sampling if involved with other sampling modes such as ships.
  2. Mapping  of  constituents  of  concern  such  as  intentional  or  unintentional  contaminant discharges. For example, gliders were used to map the submerged oil/dispersant plume that resulted from the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon accident.
  3. Extended spatial-temporal observations of a region are valuable for understanding ambient conditions, and for evaluating long-term effects of natural and anthropogenic processes. 
Ultimately, our goal is to develop a smart, scalable, and adaptable capability for ocean sensing, while creatively developing technological and management solutions that transform our ability to sustainably monitor and steward the Red Sea.