Gliders for Research, Ocean Observations and Management: Infrastructure and Innovation
Underwater and surface drones, in particular gliders, have become essential vehicles to carry scientific payloads for most environmental observations from the surface down to 6000m and for activities supporting the blue economy. Their major advantages are being mobile, steerable, persistent and usable in large numbers and at relatively low costs. However, the distributed infrastructure required to exploit these assets must be able to meet different demands from research and monitoring of the marine environment, to public service missions and industry needs, requiring customised payloads and operations. The rapid evolution of such technologies (robotics, artificial intelligence, sensors, big data) requires that the R&D resources offered by this distributed infrastructure continuously adapt to users’ demands. The complex hardware and information technology characteristics of such a distributed European infrastructure, optimizing access to resources and R & D for gliders, were analysed during the GROOM-FP7 design study from the perspective of research and the Global and (future) European Ocean Observing System (GOOS & EOOS) needs. Since then, several “gliderports” have developed which has fostered a corresponding European industrial innovative sector. GROOM II, building on its predecessor, will deliver the decision basis for an advanced MRI that promotes scientific excellence, fosters innovation, support the blue economy, builds industrial and public partnerships, and works towards helping achieve the common research and innovation mission for future Europe. The project will define the overall organization of an infrastructure dedicated to ocean research and innovation, and maritime services supporting Blue Growth. This infrastructure will be a positive step against today’s fragmented European landscape, aiding connections and synergies for the completion of GOOS and EOOS.