On Thursday 20 August, one of the robots, 'Thomas', will be heading out from Milford Haven in Wales to explore the southern portion of the Celtic Deep, approximately 50 miles to the south west of the UK.
The Celtic Deep is a hotspot for marine mammals, including common dolphins, harbour porpoises and the world's second biggest animal, the fin whale. Thomas travels along the sea surface and will be fitted with a number of GoPro cameras and sensors to detect underwater noise from vocalising marine mammals, as well as instruments to collect oceanographic information such as temperature, salinity and plankton densities.
Thomas will be meeting up with another robot - an underwater glider - in the Celtic Deep and they will spend three weeks surveying the area. You can track their progress via the Marine Autonomous Underwater Systems website. The information collected by the robots will give scientists a better understanding of the environment, which in turn helps to inform conservation and management of marine activities.
WWF is delighted to support this innovative technology in order to get a clearer picture of what's out there in our seas. Only through increased understanding can we can identify what needs to be done to ensure good management and protection. We're lucky that the UK seas are home to many spectacular animals and to fascinating areas such as the Celtic Deep. By ensuring our seas are healthy and productive we can ensure a strong marine economy and prosperous coastal communities that depend on the resources and business opportunities the seas provide.
Lack of data is a common problem in the marine environment and ocean robots like Thomas have huge potential as a solution to this, presenting a relatively low-cost alternative to large research ship deployments as a means of gathering data.
Stay tuned for an update in September, when we'll be presenting the images and data Thomas brings back from his voyage