We own a Roomba, which is a robot vacuum cleaner made by iRobot. It looks like a cross between an overgrown hockey puck and a squashed R2D2 from Star Wars. It softly whirs and occasionally beeps as it crisscrosses the floor vacuuming, until it eventually runs low on power, at which point it heads back to its charging station, to be ready to vacuum again. (We love our Roomba. )
IRobot builds more that robot vacuum cleaners, of course. Right now three iRobot Seagliders are in service monitoring the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Here is how Colin Angle, Chairman and CEO of iRobot describes the devices:
“iRobot’s Seaglider is a flexible, state-of-the-art technology that can autonomously monitor the Gulf waters night and day for up to 10 months on a single battery charge, traveling thousands of miles and transmitting valuable data back every few hours. This is going to become even more important as the hurricane season approaches, increasing the dangers facing researchers on open waters. I take extreme pride in knowing that iRobot employees are working around the clock to support Seaglider deployments in the Gulf, motivated by the desire to make a difference during this tragedy and help the Gulf community in any way we can.”
On May 21, we launched an iRobot Seaglider to monitor the area just a few miles away from the Gulf oil spill. The Seaglider is configured with sensors that report a wide variety of data, including the level of dissolved oxygen in the water and the presence of oil all the way down to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). We also helped the U.S. Navy with the rapid integration of additional sensors on two of the Seagliders in their fleet, which are also capturing and monitoring samples far below the water’s surface in the Gulf of Mexico now.
Quote from Prof. Vernon Asper, our Partner at the University of Southern Mississippi
“The CDOM fluorescence records obtained by the iRobot Seaglider confirm those acquired using similar devices used nearby during research cruises and will serve to help map the distribution of these features.
“iRobot responded to the spill immediately by preparing and hand-delivering a Seaglider to the accident site within a very short time, making them the very first autonomous vehicle of any kind to be used to survey the area for subsurface oil.
“The iRobot Seaglider approach to studying the distribution of subsurface oil released by the spill is not only one of the most cost effective approaches, but it also addresses the seriously limited availability of research vessels from which to study these phenomena. It’s sensors are recording the CDOM fluorescence, oxygen, optical backscatter, and chlorophyll fluorescence values that will help scientists better understand the spill and this vehicle works day and night in any weather.”