By Annie Hayflick-Oracle on Nov 02, 2015
Father of Java is now Liquid Robotics' chief software architect
I learned James Gosling, the creator of the Java language, is now the admiral of a fleet of water-borne drones from Mike Duigou last Thursday at the Java Hub in the JavaOne Exhibit hall. Gosling is the chief software architect for Sunnyvale-based Liquid Robotics, a 8-year-old company that uses self-propelled 7-foot-long marine robotic drones that look like surfboards to collect and transmit oceanic data for a variety of uses. Duigou told me that he was brought aboard by Gosling as Senior Software Engineer when he joined the company in 2011.
Called Wave Gliders, the drone are powered by wave energy, with the constant up-and-down motion providing energy that pulls the robots through the ocean. Duigou gave me a hand-on tour of the USS Gosling, a test Wave Glider on display in the Hub. He explained the Wave Glider is made of two parts: the surfboard-sized float that stays on the surface; and the sub that has wings and hangs 3-9 meters below the float on an umbilical tether. Because of the separation, the float experiences more wave motion than the sub. This difference allows wave energy to be harvested to for propulsion.
Exploded view of Wave Glider marine drone (source: Liquid Rocket)
The Wave Glider is equipped with several computers for navigation and payload control, satellite communication systems, and ocean sensors that do things like measure weather, sea conditions, water quality and chemistry, animal life and water currents. Acoustic microphones and arrays on the Wave Glider have also been use to record passing ships and the vocalizations of whales and other mammals (an early use case of the company's technology).
The power needed to operate the sensors and computers is provided by solar panels, which are used to recharge lithium-ion batteries. Individual Wave Glider can be programmed for autonomous operation, or it can be steered by a remote pilot over the Internet. Continuous, near real time, communication is provided via satellite, cellular phone or radio links for piloting and data transmission.
All the Wave Glider computing power is Linux- and Java-based and includes a Hadoop cluster on the backend used to analyze the large data sets the devices collect, either individually or in groups. Duigou explained that the Wave Gliders can also be programmed to operate as a drone swarm. "For example, you can set up a fence around a marine protected area like Monterey Bay and give them all the goal of defending the border and reporting intruders. The robots can figure out who goes where."
A diver swims with a Wave Glider SV2 during operations in Hawaii (source: Liquid Rocket).
Find out more about Liquid Robotics here: http://liquidr.com/index.html