Gotta Catch ‘Em All
Having earned its chops, the Wave Glider took the maritime market by storm. As an all-purpose platform, some of Liquid Robotics’ first customers have been far outside of the environmental community – military and oil and gas exploration companies to name a few. However, as Hine explained, conservation is the “pillar of the company,” and “where we focus our energy and our heart.” Thus since its earliest days, the Wave Glider has been hard at work fighting the good fight to monitor our ocean environments and protect their precious resources.
In fact, the Wave Glider’s first illegal fishing deployment took place in arguably the most remote Marine Protected Area (MPA) in existence: the Pitcairn Islands. This largely uninhabited South Pacific island chain whose main island, Pitcairn, is often referred to derisively as a “lump of rock,” is a British Overseas Territory located a whopping 3300 miles away from its neighbor New Zealand.
In January 2016, Liquid Robotics partnered with the United Kingdom government and UK-based satellite data company Catapult Satellite Applications to deploy the Wave Glider to surveil Pitcairn Island’s MPA. Over the course of four months, the test would assess how accurate the Wave Glider was in working with Catapult to detect vessels and illegal incursions in the 324,000 square mile marine protected area.
Initial testing yielded incredible results. The Wave Glider was able to detect vessel noises across 18 nautical miles with underwater hydrophones, and was able to successfully communicate and work with satellite data during the entirety of the operation. One final task remained: getting the Wave Glider home. Since it was enormously expensive for Liquid Robotics to get operators out to the remote Pitcairn Islands, it dawned on Hine that it was time to “let the robot be the robot,” and complete the entire journey to Pitcairn Islands unchaperoned. The Company therefore programmed the Wave Gliders to travel 3000 miles home to their base in Hawaii while operators kicked their feet up at home.