Autonomous ocean robots are the future of marine research and environmental monitoring. This is because of the high costs and man-power associated with ‘snapshot’ observations made by ships and because today we require high quality, high-frequency sampling to support on-going world class oceanographic and climate research. The CSIR-led South Africa Marine Engineering & Robotics Centre (SAMERC) in Cape Town presents a state-of-the-art facility that (1) provides a glider-port for maintaining and piloting both profiling and surface gliders, (2) services and calibrates ship-based equipment and sensors for ocean profiling (e.g., CTD, UCTD, XBT), and (3) serves as a platform to grow technological R&D and marine engineering innovation in South Africa. This facility functions in collaboration with Sea Technology Services (STS) and is hosted by DEA-SANAP
This DST-supported world class facility is under the leadership of Dr Seb Swart and Dr Pedro Monteiro of the CSIR. The Centre currently houses long-endurance, deep- profiling (1000m) ocean gliders that consist of 4 Seagliders and 1 Webb-Teledyne Slocum Glider. These gliders are capable of sampling a range of physical and biogeochemical parameters including temperature, salinity, pressure, dissolved oxygen, bio-optics (incl. chl-a) and PAR. In addition there are long-endurance surface wave gliders that consist of 2 SV2 Liquid Robotics Wave Gliders with pCO2 systems and weather stations, and 2 new generation SV3 Liquid Robotics Wave Gliders. The wave gliders are suited to measure atmospheric CO2 fluxes, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, salinity and surface weather (wind, RH, air temperature, etc.). The Slocum glider and SV3 Wave Gliders perform as R&D platforms for sensor integration, power utilization testing and experimental design.
The Centre also maintains specially adapted biogeochemical profiling floats, ship-mounted heat flux sensors and the profiling equipment deployed from ships. The profiling equipment includes a full standard and Geotraces CTD carousel with 24 x 20 litre Niskin Bottles and auxiliary sensors for measuring key physical, biogeochemical and bio-optical properties of the water column. An underway-CTD (UCTD) for acquiring temperature and salinity profiles of the ocean to 500m depth, while the ship is steaming, is also part of the Centre’s gadgets.
These new capabilities have begun to attract a number of engineering students that complete their in-service training and BTech projects at the Centre. This advances human resource development in scarce skills in the fields of marine technology, robotics engineering and scientific sensor development that contributes to innovation in South Africa.
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