The Royal Institute of Navigation recently published information about a curious craft washed ashore on the island of Tiree on the West Coast of Scotland and asked members if they could identify the craft. It was subsequently identified as a Wave Glider autonomous vessel manufactured by Liquid Robotics.
"The Wave Glider is 3.05 metres long and uses wave motion on a wing suspended some 8 metres below it to power it at speeds of up to 1.3 knots. In addition it has solar panels on the topside to produce electricity to power the payload that it is carrying. The payload carried varies according to the mission chosen and can include an AIS receiver, camera, hydrophones, scientific sensors, satellite communications and much more. The vessel can be both initially programmed and also programmed in real time and accessed by using satellite/3G/WiFi communications. Examples of sensors and missions are shown on the manufacturer's website. It is typically used by both the US and UK Navies and by various government organisations. Naval versions tend to be painted black or grey and civilian versions painted yellow or orange. Typical cost for the vessel has been stated as 300,000 US Dollars.
A number of these vessels have been found washed up recently, as follows.
Isle of Tiree - October 2020
Unst, Shetland Isles - 2020
Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides - 2019
Donnegal, Ireland - 2019
Due to the sensitive nature of some of the missions that these vessels are engaged on (surveillance etc.) the information about the owner is often not available. Liquid Robotics have been contacted about the above vessels and they have replied as follows: "In each of these cases the customer has been notified , but beyond that we do not comment on customer missions or vehicles without their permission".
I contacted Glen Tuttle of Boat Watch and Glen spoke to Liquid Robotics and reported as follows:
"Boat Watch has been alerted to several of these ocean going robots known as Wave Gliders washing up on beaches around the world. They present a very low profile on the surface, about like a surfboard, and would be very difficult to spot without a sharp lookout. At night, I hope they are well lit, and sending out an AIS signal. We have asked Boeing for additional information but have not had a reply. Blue water voyagers should be aware of them.https://www.boeing.com/.../autonomous.../wave-glider/...
ALTHOUGH THIS PARTICULAR NOTICE TO MARINERS HAS EXPIRED IN AUGUST 2020, IT IS IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR ALL OFF SHORE VOYAGERS TO BE AWARE OF THESE HAZARDS TO NAVIGATION
ThayerMahan, Inc. autonomous, unmanned
maritime vehicle (Wave Glider-WG) will be transiting from approximately
100 NM East of Port Canaveral, FL to about 100 NM East of Cape May, NJ.
The transit will commence on or about 27 May, 2020 and is expected to
terminate on or about 27 August, 2020. 24/7 operations consist of
scientific ocean data collection. The Wave Glider carries no fuel,
lubricants or hydrocarbons. Itis wave powered and remotely attended from
the ThayerMahan Operations Center, moving at speeds of about 1kt, and is
designed to automatically give way if encountered by a vessel transmitting
AIS. It is approximately 6.5’ x 2’ (surfboard size), copper in color, with
a contact plaque and mast extending 3’ above the water surface. Mariners
are requested to transit the area with caution. For more details, contact
the ThayerMahan Operations center at 860-969-3171.Liquid Robotics
(www.liquid-robotics.com) will conduct continuous autonomous, unmanned
maritime vehicle operations from 23 March through 31JULY 2020, within five
miles of the line between the following two coordinates:40° 4' 37.0236" N,
66° 27' 28.6626" W (40.076950714504356, -66.45796175781251)36° 48'
29.2032" N, 73° 16' 29.9208" W (36.808112043432956,
-73.27497835937501)Operations consist of scientific ocean data collection.
Wave Gliders carry no fuel, lubricants, or hydrocarbons, are wave powered,
remotely attended from our Wave Glider Operations Center (WGOC), moving at
speeds of typically 1kt, and designed to give way or part if encountered
by a vessel. They are surfboard size, black in color, with a contact
plaque. Mariners are urged to transit the area with caution. For
up-to-date information, mariners can contact Liquid Robotics Operations
Center at +1 408 636 4205, or by email at email@example.com
I spoke with a representative of Liquid Robotics who manufacture these devices. This company sells these devices to a variety of customers, presumably geological and weather related organizations, as well as military organizations. All these devices receive AIS traffic from nearby vessels and will take evasive measures to avoid a collision. The devices DO NOT transmit an AIS signal. However, it is entirely up to the owner of the device whether to have it lit with a light at night, or display a flag or radar reflector to increase it's visibility to other vessels in the area."
ALL MARINERS SHOULD TAKE NOTE THAT THESE CRAFT CONSTITUTE A HAZARD TO NAVIGATION ESPECIALLY FOR SMALL CRAFT.