Uncrewed and autonomous platforms – but not robots!

Tagging elephant seals with sensors gives unique data from the ocean around Antarctica

At SCOOT we are enthusiastic about using robotics for collecting ocean data. The reason is simple: Sensors mounted on crewed platforms (ships) will never manage to increase the amount of data needed to observe and understand our oceans.

However, an uncrewed platform does not have to be a robot – it can also be an animal! SCOOT’s Louise Biddle and Sebastiaan Swart show in a recent research paper in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans what wonderful friends ocean scientists can have in elephant seals, even though these heavy beasts are not famed for their friendliness when approached…

Biddle & Swart investigate climate critical processes in the marginal ice zone around Antarctica, where the ice cover is advancing and retreating seasonally. This is a region where the lack of data is especially severe. Small sensors attached to elephant seals provided Biddle & Swart with ocean data down to 500 meter depth, including locations covered by floating sea ice. The data was retrieved by direct communication with the sensors over satellite.

For anyone feeling that the paper by Biddle & Swart is to heavy, The New York Times picked up this fascinating research in an article, doing a good job at explaining some of the scientific concepts.

We should point out that all scientific work with animals, not least mammals, is strictly regulated. The elephant seals are not harmed or effected negatively by the attached instruments.

AUV Ran in the headlines

If you are first to go under the under Antarctic ”doomsday glacier” (and making it back!), you will get headlines. SCOOT’s flag robot, AUV Ran, together with professor Anna Wåhlin and her team feature both in rock ‘n’ roll magazine Rolling Stone and in a radio show from PRI’s The World. Links:

As always, SCOOT wants to put hardware and data in the hands of people with ideas. Interested in AUV Ran? Please contact us. She will be back from Southern Ocean in time for hands on workshop 17 – 20 June on Bornö at the west coast of Sweden.

University of Gothenburg oceanographer Anna Wåhlin, director of the Hugin project, waits on the bridge of the Nathaniel B. Palmer for the Hugin submarine to surface in icy seas near the face of Thwaites Glacier.
Credit: Carolyn Beeler/The World

First voyage under Antarctic ”doomsday glacier”

What an achievement! Professor and Scoot board member Anna Wåhlin (bottom left in photo) tweets: “OMG we did it – we went under Thwaites ice shelf!! We have water samples, bathymetry and ocean physics from underneath the 300-500 M thick ”doomsday glacier”. The Swedish AUV Ran was first. So so proud of our team!!” More about this on GU web.

Now the really interesting part. If you are an entrepreneur, innovator or researcher with ideas about measurements in the ocean or data from the ocean, Scoot makes the AUV Ran available for YOU. Interested? 1) Contact us, 2) meet us at Scoot open house, 8 May at Nya Varvet in Gothenburg, 3) join us for a hands on workshop at the classic oceanographic station on Bornö in the Gullmarn fjord, 17 – 20 June.