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Scientific

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In November of 2011, Liquid Robotics dropped four of its brand new Wave Glider robots in the water just off the coast of San Francisco with hopes of making history and learning a thing or two in the offing. Two of the robots would set a course for Japan and the other two for Australia, each destination roughly 9,000 nautical miles away. It was to be the longest journey ever taken by any autonomous vehicle, a slow but steady swim across the entire Pacific Ocean that would collect and relay high resolution oceanographic and atmospheric data all along the way, stopping only for a quick maintenance check-up in Hawaii--if they made it that far at all.


And so Liquid Robotics' engineers dumped their robots into the rolling water and turned them loose, uncertain as anyone else whether the robots could survive the weather, waves, and wildlife they would surely encounter on a trans-Pacific crossing. There are sharks out there, after all. Massive waves and gale-force winds. There's a whole lot of saltwater out there, itself a force for destruction and disruption of mechanical systems. And yet almost exactly a year after launching the Wave Glider known as "Papa Mau" navigated around the Great Barrier Reef and arrived off the coast of Queensland Australia in May 2012, half a world away from where it started and only somewhat worse for wear.

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