Two pairs of self-propelled oceangoing robots have begun slowly making their way across the Pacific Ocean, setting off Nov. 17 from San Francisco on an epic journey covering 33,000 nautical miles. During their 300-day trip, the robots will collect 2.25 million pieces of data, and attempt to break a world record for the longest distance ever traversed by an unmanned vehicle.
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Liquid Robotics, which built the gliders, aims to share all this data with scientists and the public. Through the Oceans portal in Google Earth, you can even follow the expedition online.
Underwater robots are highly capable machines, with successful track records traversing the Atlantic by themselves and collecting a wide range of oceanographic data. In 2009, the Scarlet Knight glider became the first robotic vehicle to cross the Atlantic, covering 4,591 miles in 221 days. Since then, institutions from NASA to the Navy have also been testing autonomous vehicles that can harvest their own energy and serve as constant, networked ocean monitors.
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