Swarm Of Underwater Robots Sent Out As ‘Plankton’ To Study Ocean Currents

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Researchers from the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography developed underwater robots to provide scientists with a new tool for studying currents in the ocean and the ocean’s most abundant organism: plankton.

Miniature Autonomous Underwater Explorers

For the study published in the journal Nature Communications, Jules Jaffe, Scripps oceanographer, designed and made miniature autonomous underwater explorers to examine small-scale processes occurring in the ocean.

As ocean probes, M-AUEs are fitted with sensors for measuring conditions in the water and equipment to help underwater robots in “swimming” up and down the ocean and adjust buoyancy so they can stay at a uniform depth. Depending on research needs and goals, the underwater robots can be released in swarms with anywhere between hundreds and thousands of units to capture in 3D how ocean currents interact with marine life, and vice versa.

Along with Peter Franks and other colleagues, Jaffe sent out a 16-unit swarm of underwater robots the size of grapefruits, each one designed to mimic plankton swimming behavior underwater. The researchers’ goal was to test out theories regarding plankton formation under the ocean’s surface, which commonly occurs during instances of red tides.

Studying Plankton Franks had long suspected that this plankton formation could help in feeding and protecting predators, as well as aid in their reproduction. He came up with a mathematical theory 20 years ago predicting that plankton swimming would form dense clusters when the organisms are moved by internal waves, or the giant but slow-moving waves occurring beneath the ocean’s surface.

Read the source article at TechTimes.com.