Quick Facts: The AUVs and their Payloads
• Name: Slocum Glider, after Joshua Slocum, the first man to single-handedly sail around the world.
• Conceived by: Douglas C. Webb and supported by Henry Stommel and others.
• Produced by: Teledyne Webb Research
• What they Do: Travel autonomously throughout the water column for 15 to 30 days at a time gathering data that is then beamed to a satellite network and then sent on to a destination site on earth. At Mote, that destination site is called SO COOL – the Sarasota Operations of the Coastal Oceans Observation Laboratory.
• How they Travel: In simplest terms, the Slocum Glider uses buoyancy to move throughout the water column in a vertical zigzag pattern, taking in water to move down through the water column and expelling water to return to the surface to send data. Each glider has angled wings so that as it takes on or releases water it is propelled forward instead of just going up or down.
• Size: About 6 feet long and 8 inches in diameter
• Weight: About 110 pounds
About the Glider’s Payload: The gliders are designed so that they can carry a variety of scientific instruments, or payloads. Mote created a special payload called a BreveBuster that can detect Florida’s red tide in the water. Another type of payload – the one being used to detect oil – is a called a fluorometer. A fluorometer measures the light emitted – or fluorescence – of the water as the AUV travels in the water column. In simplest terms, the fluorometer has an LED (light-emitting diode) that sends out ultraviolet light. If the water contains certain chemical components of oil, these chemicals will absorb the light and then re-emit it as fluorescence. A detector will see this light emission and report its presence.
What the Fluorometer is Looking for: The fluorometer, which is about the size of a hockey puck, is looking for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH’s, and the dispersants used to break the oil down. PAHs are the chemical components of oil that are extremely toxic or carcinogenic, affecting reproduction, immune function and the health of organisms that do not die from acute exposure.