• Damon Swisher

Marine Sensors Are Now Powering Themselves!

Making Sense of the Sea: Oceanographic Sensors

There are a wide array of ocean sensors currently in employ today - with sizes ranging from a large ship to smaller than a penny. In the natural sciences, sensors are important; humans come equipped with some built in sensors, we can tell when an environment is hot instead of cold, we can count a pod of humpback whales, we can differentiate morphological characteristics of different species, we can feel changes in wind speed, the list goes on and on and on. As humans, we are actually pretty good sensors - we can conduct science literally with what we have. But is our great planet so simple that we can monitor it without any help?

The truth is, we need something more!

Can you imagine how many sensors are on a single Star Destroyer?

Anyway; sensors are common use in the ocean as well - because while we can count the number of humpback whales each year and chart their decline on a trend graph, the numbers aren't going to answer any questions regarding what's happening to the whales. And we aren't going to count the number of the microscopic creatures they eat by hand, nor are we going to guesstimate the temperature shift across a section of the sea by dipping a toe in the water every few miles, and we certainly aren't going to tie a rope around one and ride it bareback to see where it's been going the past few months.

And that's just one species, right? To track everything we need to track, we need sensors. And we need a lot of 'em. And those sensors need power.

They need marine power!

Luckily, the marine power industry has received some tremendous gains recently with the development of new technology, an increase in testing (for specific products) and vigor from the wide community of sustainable energy activism that pushes the human intelligence community to develop unique solutions to the increasing need for clean energy.

Scheduled for an earlier deployment in 2020, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), the company responsible for the PowerBuoy and aspiring to transform the world through durable, innovative and cost-effective energy solutions particularly in the marine energy field, will be deploying a PowerBuoy and oceanographic sensor system off the coast of Chile in December. This will allow the monitoring systems to literally power themselves! Speaking on the need for more sensors, there a number of limiting factors - they include materials (not a big factor, but still), maintenance, installation, and power - and now, with technologies like the PowerBuoy point absorber, we can scratch "power" off of the list!

There's another twist though - on December 7th, OPT contracted SeaTrepid, an operator of robotic equipment and sensors for inland and offshore customers, yo handle the installation of the PowerBuoy and sensor system - which will be the first time a system is installed without OPT personnel present. But you know, there's a pandemic going on - and the applications for remote work continue to grow. "The global pandemic has caused us to rethink our approach to deployments in distant locations by using remote collaboration tools" says George H. Kirby, who is the president and CEO of OPT. It just goes to show that a pandemic wont be enough to turn our progress around, although there is not question that billions of lives are suffering due to the ongoing economic lockdowns, preventative initiatives, and reduced ability to fulfill duties.

Bob Christ, CEO of SeaTrepid, is just as enthusiastic about the project. "We are extremely pleased to be working with the innovative professionals at OPT" he says, referencing the efficient blend of OPT's technology with SeaTrepid's offshore operations and approach. The future is looking bright, with initiatives like this you can expect to see more marine science developments soon!

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