iRobot monitoring the Gulf oil leak

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May 25, 2010, 7:12 pm
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(NECN: Tom Langford) - Technology is playing a key role in monitoring the Gulf oil leak, and the damage it has caused.

iRobot's corporate headquarters in Bedford, Massachusetts are a long way from the Gulf of Mexico.
     
But the Gulf oil spill is on people's minds here, now that some of iRobot's technology is helping to find and track leaking oil that's lurking where no one can see it.


     
Thousands of feet below the water's surface.
     
Tom Frost, iRobot's program manager for maritime systems, says, the key to finding the oil is an underwater, unmanned vehicle called Seaglider.
     
One of iRobot's Seagliders has been diving into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico since this weekend.
     
Frost explains, "We can record the data from the surface all the way through the water column as the glider dives.  And then when we surface back up we can report that back in real time over a satellite link.  So you're getting a real time picture of what is in the water column."
     
That's valuable information for scientists and environmentalists who are tracking the movement of the spill.
     
Additionally, Frost points out -- using a robot to collect the data is efficient and cost effective.
     
"The nice thing about the glider is you can put it out there, it can operate for ten months at a time. You don't need a boat out there to do this operation, in fact we're piloting the glider from North Carolina."
     
And, already, they're getting good results.
     
Frost says,  "we have collected a lot of data so far, and we've made it available to researchers and scientists to see if there's interesting stuff."
     
The Seaglider can stay out, underwater for 10 months.
     
At this point, it is unclear how long it will stay in the gulf.
     
Frost says, it will stay as long as its needed.

Tags: Tom Langford, iRobot, gulf oil leak
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