24 April, 2018 24 April, 2018

Unmanned Rover to Study the Surf Zone

Carrying out scientific research in the ocean’s surf zone, as you can imagine, is rather difficult. Conventional methods conducted off boats or carried out through diving require perfect conditions and as surfers, we know the ocean can be rather stingie when it comes to offering those perfect days. Que the Surf Rover a remote-control tracked vehicle that explores the surf zone like an underwater tank. 

William Dally, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of North Florida, come up with the idea years ago as a student when tasked with planting a set of data-gathering rods in the surf zone. Not surprisingly this proved pretty difficult as he was thrown around like a kook trying to surf a 6-foot swell. 

Years later Dally has secured a National Science Foundation grant to build an unmanned vehicle that could do the job for him, designed to take on challenges such as soft sand, steep slopes, high waves and strong currents. After making the prototype the team will now need to upscale their design. The surf Rover will weigh over 1300 kg and measure 4.9 by 6.7m meaning you will not want to run into this beast whilst out for a paddle. 

“Its primary job will be near-shore surveying, determining how the beach changes during storms and what happens to the sand eroded from the beach,” says Dally. “But there may also be a demand in the hydrographic surveying industry, which no longer uses swimmers to go out in the water or boats to come close to shore due to recent accidents … It’s amazing to me that we have vehicles roving surfaces out in space, but we have nothing to help us routinely collect data and make observations in the surf zone on Earth.”

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this could be of interest to surfers, perhaps we could even better the design. 


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