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Uncrewed Systems

Uncrewed Systems

Today, we can monitor the lakes from the air, on the water, and even underwater, without a human onboard.

Glider being adjusted on a ship

Uncrewed systems (UxS) can monitor the lakes where and when humans cannot, and cost less than crewed missions. Underwater gliders can take measurements in remote locations and during dangerous conditions.

Underwater

Glider being adjusted on a ship
Glider Slocum on isolated background
Man deploying an instrument into the water

One of the most well-known underwater UxS, gliders are winged vehicles that change their buoyancy to fly through the water.

How does it move? First, a glider sucks water into the nose cone to sink, pulling itself down and forward. It then jettisons the water so it can float back up and forward.

Technicians program these gliders with a “mission,” telling them where to go and how often to send data. Then they slide them off the decks of vessels, sometimes sent to travel 1000 kilometers (621 miles) over the course of months.

GLOS, University of Minnesota Duluth, and the U.S. EPA and other organizations have run glider missions in Lake Superior. These paths show assorted missions completed between 2011 and 2018 by gliders “Nokomis” and “Gichigami.”
Deploying a platform
G3 Slocum glider

Slocum G2 Glider

Vehicle Name: glos_236

Model: Teledyne Slocum G2

Onboard: Seabird CTD, Wetlabs ECO Triplet (chlorophyll A, backscatter, and CDOM), PAR, fast-response dissolved oxygen sensor, rechargeable lithium-ion battery

Max depth: 200 meters

Distance traveled: 11,000 km

Missions completed: 19

Days at sea: 521

G3 Slocum glider

Slocum G3 Glider

Vehicle Name: Josephine (new)

Model: Teledyne Slocum G3

Onboard: RBR CTD, Wetlabs ECO Triplet (chlorophyll A, backscatter, and CDOM), PAR, fast-response dissolved oxygen sensor, rechargeable lithium-ion battery

Max depth: 50 meters

Kilometers/miles traveled: 125

Missions completed: 0

Days at sea: 3

Days at sea: 0

Other Uncrewed Systems

On the Surface

The least common type of UxS in the Great Lakes, uncrewed surface vehicles, like the SeaTrac, collect data from the water and meteorological data from the air.

In the Air

Uncrewed aerial systems, like drones, can collect measurements and imagery of lake surface conditions using various types of cameras and sensors.

Researcher Ethan Theuerkauf uses a drone to collect photographs that help to map the changing Lake Michigan shoreline. Photo by Guy Meadows.

GLOS