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A sea drone project to inspect typhoon from the eye

Posted July. 13, 2016 07:19,   

Updated July. 13, 2016 07:32





A sea drone will be sent into the eye of a typhoon for scientific observation. The Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology (KIOST) said on Tuesday that it will conduct observation on typhoons passing the Korea Peninsula during this summer, using "Wave Glider," an unmanned self-driving ship specialized for typhoon surveillance. So far, data collection of typhoons has been done by analyzing satellite images.

Wave Glider, a robot vessel that freely sails on the ocean, can enter into the eye of typhoon without risking human lives. It is designed to send wireless signals to the control tower of information such as wind speed, temperature, air pressure and wave height.

Wave Glider was developed by an American technology firm Liquid Robotics in 2011. It is 1.6 meters long and moves with its body half underwater, which allows it to endure strong wind while collecting marine and weather information. It is powered by turning sunlight and wave power into energy so that it can float on the ocean without extra fuel supply for more than three months. It is also equipped with sensors to detect other ships passing by to avoid collision and can be controlled by the headquarters of the KIOST via satellite, from as far as 500 kilometers away, when necessary.

The KIOST purchased the robot for 300 million won in 2014, and has been researching for the best operation condition suitable to the local environment. The institute has been carrying out typhoon research from earlier this month, using the device in the southern sea of Jeju Island, one of the major routes of typhoons passing the Korean Peninsula. Korea is the third country to explore typhoon with the fleet, following the U.S. and Australia.

A Wave Glider goes into stand-by 30 kilometers away from the southern sea of Jeju, when a typhoon starts to come toward the peninsula. Then it starts to glide toward the typhoon under pre-set order, when it approaches as close as 700 kilometers south of Jeju. The highest speed is 2 notes (3.7km/h), similar to the average walking speed. “The robot is expected to detect almost all typhoons that pass the peninsula,” said KIOST.

The institute had planned operation the equipment from last year, but failed as no typhoon passed by. If it succeeds this year in sending it into the eye of a typhoon, it will be the first case in Northeast Asia to directly collect typhoon information from the ocean.

변지민 동아사이언스기자ashilla@donga.com