A fleet of seven marine robots has been deployed into the ocean off south-west England as part of a project to collect scientific data about ocean processes and marine life.
Led by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), the project involves scientists and engineers from research institutes and universities, commercial companies and government agencies, as well as the UK Met Office and Royal Navy.
These battery-powered submarine gliders and new surface vehicles will travel up to 300 miles over the next 20 days, crossing a series of physical boundaries in the ocean, called fronts, which separate water masses of different properties.
Apart from observing the sea animals, the robots will measure the temperature of the water and the weather conditions at the ocean surface, as well as detect the density of plankton in the water.
The data provided by the robots will be used by scientists to map the distribution of the fronts and their associated fauna.
The vehicles will be monitored by a control centre in NOC, Southampton, and a few will be operated by project partners from California, US.
The Plymouth Marine Laboratory is providing the satellite maps for the exercise, while tidal data comes from NOC and weather data is delivered by Royal Navy operations.
Two UK companies, MOST and ASV, have worked with NOC to design and build two of the robotic surface vehicles that gather energy from their environment.
MOST's Autonaut vehicle uses wave and solar power, while ASV's C-Enduro vehicle uses wind and solar power. Both vehicles are equipped with a conventional back-up power source.
Image: A fleet of seven marine robots has been deployed into the ocean off south-west England. Photo: courtesy of NOC / NERC / University of Southampton.