Category: Thermal Tests

Preparing for their Journey

Hey All,



Lewis & Clark have arrived to the big island of Hawaii!  Final prep work is being done now and deployment is planned for sometime this week.

Once in the water, the two new E-Twin Thermals will fly off of the coast of Hawaii for some time making absolutely sure that everything is functioning properly before turning west and heading across the pacific.



The track above is a monthly break down of progress proposed by the US Naval Academy interns we hosted this summer: Midshipmen Alex Brecht, Brendan Kahle and Danielle Quinonez, showing the path from Hawaii to Guam.

We will keep everyone updated on the progress of this historic deployment as the week progresses and we get more detail

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Expanding Our Fleet: Welcome Lewis & Clark

We have a great treat for everyone today!


Two Thermal E-Twin Gliders (the product of a collaborative effort between Teledyne Webb Research and the Jet Propulsion Lab) were shipped from Massachusetts this week on their way to Hawaii. Their names are Lewis & Clark and after some extensive testing off the coast of Hawaii, will join the Challenger Fleet as they head west tackling the first Pacific Legs.

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The name Thermal E-Twin stands for the electrical generation and the Twin is 2 thermal engines with the capacity to supply all of the buoyancy drive and electricity the glider needs.

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Last week, Lewis was deployed in Cape Cod Bay for some initial testing.  While at sea Tod Patterson from TWR who has worked extensively on the development of the Thermals, found a bug in the software and was able to apply a fix to the code allowing for a successful test flight

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The results of the test were that the pitch seemed to be lacking at +- 20 deg but everything else looked good. Since then, both gliders have been shipped out to Hawaii and a team from TWR will fly out on the 17th of this month with a planned deployment date of 20th or 21st .

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Once in Hawaii, the gliders will be deployed off of the western shore near Kailua Kona where they will fly for a few months of extensive testing in the area as the engineers continue to search for and fix any bugs that may spring up.


In the image above, I have taken data from the european ocean model to plot the difference in temperature between the surface and 1245 m.  The scale on the map is from ∆21.8 C to ∆23.4 which is well above the required temperature change for the gliders to fly efficiently

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Finally the last two images are different views of the bathymetry for the region, the image on the left showing a digitization by google of the sudden drop off of the sea floor thanks to the volcanic activity that brought about the origins of the hawaiian islands coupled with the imagery from Antonio on the right of the current and future islands in the area.

We will keep everyone updated as we close in on the deployment date of Lewis and Clark

*** The images of the gliders and test flights are from Tod Patterson and Chris DeCollibus and are property of Teledyne Webb Research

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Continuing the Legacy

Hey All!


As Silbo continues his mission to Brazil, I would like to take a step back and talk about the future for not only Silbo, but the expanding Challenger Fleet.

Since the initial deployment on June 25, 2011, Silbo has flown over 8,241 km over the course of 379 days making progress from Iceland south past the Cape Verde Islands.  Although we have been struggling with the strong head current that we have been in the midst of for nearly a month and a half now, Silbo is just over 2,000km from the Brazilian coast line and 4,500km from our expected end point of Rio de Janeiro; a distance we hope to cover by June 2013.

Once in Rio, Silbo will get a break as we get a team down there to clean and rebattery the little droid.  Once the maintenance is done, Silbo will get back in the water with our eyes set on the Antarctic.  We hope to take Silbo across the Drake Passage and make landfall at Palmer Station in Antarctica.  If you click on the link below, you can see a video created in Google Earth Pro reviewing Silbo’s progress and highlighting his future goals.

Silbo’s Mission: Connecting Poles from North to South

Last week on Tuesday Dec 4 2012, the 3 year anniversary of the conclusion of Scarlet’s legendary crossing of the Atlantic connecting NJ to Spain, Zdenka Willis, Director of the US Integrated Ocean Observing System payed Scott Glenn, Oscar Schofield and Josh Kohut’s Ocean Observatory course a visit.  After giving an inspiring presentation to the class on the progress IOOS has made over the past decade, Zdenka concluded her talk with the Christening of RU 29, CHALLENGER.  She explained that the christening of a vessel is a tradition that dates back to the Third Millennium BC in stories from ancient Babylon.

“Even though the actual ceremony has changed over time, the tradition, meaning, and spiritual overtones remain constant. The vast size, power, and unpredictability of the sea must certainly have awed the first sailors to venture far from shore. Instinctively, they would seek divine protection for themselves and their craft from the capricious nature of wind and water. “

These traditions follow the same process as the saying we have adopted over the course of Silbo’s mission: FORCE WIND SEA & HONOR

Click here for all of the pictures from the ceremony.

We received 29 back in the spring of this year, being Rutgers first Stretch G2 glider meant for the long duration flights that The Challenger Mission will comprise of.  This summer we had 29 fly for a month off of the NJ Shelf so we could run a number of tests and get a feel for how the glider would fly.  As we have previously mentioned, the test mission ran smoothly until the weekend where we planned on crossing the shelf to head back into shore, where there was a communication problem that led to a massive drop in battery power.

Now after a few months in the lab, 29 is entering the final preparations for its first leg of the Challenger Mission.  After getting a coating of anti biology paint, 29 will be shipped down to Cape Town South Africa where in early January it will be deployed.

The plan at this point is to take 29 and make a mirror image to what Silbo has done, crisscrossing his path flying from South Africa, past the Ascension Islands to Fortaleza Brazil, North towards the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, further North past NJ to Halifax Nova Scotia and then cross towards Ireland and finally end in Svalbard; effectively connecting the two poles in the same fashion as Silbo.  If you click the following link, there is a video highlighting the path we hope to take with 29.

Challenger’s Mission: Connecting Poles from South to North

In preparation for the deployment, we have been looking into the bathymetry of the region.  Our friends in the glider program out of South Africa have mentioned a valley that they have flown gliders in previously that we plan to take as we fly out out to International waters.  Once there, we will then head north along the route highlighted above.

Another piloting aspect we have given some thought to has been the presence of Great White Sharks.  The waters off of South Africa are known for the presence the Great Whites have their, and we have had some bad experiences that involved glider interactions with these sharks.  Just this past summer, we had a shark try and swallow a glider off of California resulting in the wings being snapped off.

We predict that these missions will take us through until late 2014

These Missions that 29 and Silbo have been working on, as we have mentioned previously, are part of the Challenger Mission.  This goal is to take a fleet of 16 gliders and recreate the path of the HMS Challenger circumnavigating the globe in the name of science.  As Silbo and 29 run these test missions, we will continue to build the fleet which we plan to have in the water from 2014- 2016. The map below is a rough path we hope to take over the course of the two years.

The following link is a Google Earth Pro movie of the paths we plan to take.


Finally, we have another branch of our expanding fleet that is being volunteered by our partners at Teledyne Webb.  They are in the process of designing a new Thermal Glider that they will fly jointly with Rutgers to kick off the legs of the Challenger Mission in the Pacific.  We plan on deploying two of these Thermal Gliders over the course of the next year.  This design builds off of the previous collaboration TWR and Rutgers has had piloting Thermals in the Atlantic in 2009 and 2010 with Cook and Drake.

As for now, the first of the two Thermal Gliders is planned to be deployed out of San Diego in late Winter/Early Spring and will head south west.

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