Surfboard-Sized Drones Crossing Pacific to Monitor Sea Surface

Wave Gliders study ocean surface, en route to Asia, Australia, and the Guinness Book of World Records.

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The data is restricted to the surface. Other drones go into depths, he said.

According to Hine, the gliders are particularly good at measuring currents, already helping to change sea current maps in the short time the drones have been at sea.

The Wave Gliders can also help to solve some current riddles.

"They can improve forecasting and our knowledge of ocean structures out there," Hine said. 

Chavez said that the gliders give more precise information and could be useful, for instance, in providing current data to tankers crossing the ocean.

Joel Shurkin is a freelance writer based in Baltimore. He was science editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and was on a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Three Mile Island