Highlands & Islands

Large-scale deployment of robots in sea off Scotland

Marine robot Image copyright SAMS
Image caption The 10 robots were deployed during a two-week research mission in October

The largest simultaneous deployment of marine robots yet attempted in UK waters was achieved last month, scientists have said.

A fleet of 10 marine robots collected information on ocean temperature, tidal currents and wave conditions off Scotland's north west coast.

The work involving Oban's Scottish Association for Marine Science was done during the inaugural Unmanned Warrior.

Held by the Royal Navy, Unmanned Warrior tested military robotics.

Image copyright SAMS
Image caption A rare Atlantic wreckfish and one of the marine robots

The deployment of the 10 marine robots - seven submarine Seagliders and three surface Wave Gliders - was done in challenging sea conditions.

Atlantic storms saw winds gust to up to 60mph and waves of up to 7m (22ft) high.

Over two weeks, the robots were operated off Lewis and Barra, including to depths of more than 1,000 metres (3,280ft).

Image copyright SAMS
Image caption Submarine and surface technology was used

Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) helped to co-ordinate the robots' research work along with Southampton's National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

More than 20 other organisations were involved.

The collected data will be archived at the British Oceanographic Data Centre and made available for future scientific research.

During the project, possibly one of the first photographs of a rare Atlantic wreckfish in its natural habitat in UK waters was taken, according to SAMS.

Image copyright SAMS
Image caption The data gathered by the devices will be archived and made available for future scientific research

NOC's Prof Russell Wynn, who was chief scientist on the project, said: "This mission benefitted hugely from the local knowledge at SAMS and the offshore expertise provided by the Royal Navy, which enabled us to safely deploy and recover the 10 vehicles in difficult conditions.

"It also highlighted the ability of marine robots to continue collecting high quality data in sea states that would have hampered or even terminated traditional vessel-based observations."

Fraser Macdonald, who co-ordinated the SAMS contribution, added: "The unique Seaglider data collected during this mission will contribute to our ongoing research into the complex oceanographic processes that influence changes in global climate, including how increasing ocean temperatures are affecting the northeast Atlantic and adjacent regions including the Arctic."

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