Not long ago, I was watching a YouTube Video which had a group of grad students from the University of Florida underwater robotic engineering department testing one of their prototypes. What they were learning is indeed of importance to national defense, drug smuggling interdiction, and developing the next generation of ecology robotic hardware into mankind’s Earth science knowledge. In this video, they had rented a large vessel, something larger three times the size of a large tugboat, went off the Gulf Coast, a few miles offshore where they were doing their tests.
It occurred to me that their underwater robotic vehicles should be able to navigate the surf, breakwater, and the waves closer to the shoreline. After all, there will be times when underwater robotic vehicles are close to islands, shoals, coral reefs, or beaches. Of course, when launching these underwater robotic vehicles the students probably didn’t want to get caught up in the surf, and would probably prefer launching them from a man-made pier, of course, that can also be tricky because there are people on the beach, they get in the way, ask too many questions, and there is always the chance that someone might get hurt, or cause their experiment to go wrong.
However, I have another idea; rather than fighting the surf and onshore flow why not use the rip current, send our robotic equipment out through the rip neck and pierce through the rip head into open water, This way, the students could launch their robotic underwater vehicles from the shoreline, and then merely follow them out to sea on a raft. Of course, this does add one more step of complications because the students would also have to mathematically model all of the rip currents in the area, and understand which times of day and at high or low tide was the best time to launch.
They also need to know exactly where the rip head was and how far out their robotic underwater vehicles would be after they set it into the water. Best of all, I can’t think of a better thing to study with these underwater robotic mechanisms in the name of science. The amount of data they could accumulate by running their robotic systems through these rip currents would be highly valuable. Knowing the width, depth, speed, amount of energy, and length of the rip currents could help us better understand our environment, and put these kids researching oceanography topics at the head of the class. Please consider all this and think on it.