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NARLabs' TORI Develops Underwater Glider to Explore the Wonders of the Ocean

Taiwan's land area covers roughly 36,000 square kilometers, but its sea area is 1.5 times larger. Therefore, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has made the promotion of marine research an important policy in the hope of using this research and relevant technological achievements to impROVe the management and sustainable development of Taiwan's marine resources.

In the promotion of marine research, equipment naturally plays a very critical role. With this in mind, NARLabs' Taiwan Ocean Research Institute (TORI) under MOST and Sun Yat-sen University's Institute of Underwater Technology have jointly developed an underwater glider with an operating depth of 1,500 meters, which is capable of carrying out long-distance and wide-ranging observation missions.

An underwater glider is an important type of vehicle that performs large-scale and long-term observations in our vast ocean. The glider's movement, based on Archimedes' principle, is controlled by changing its total volume by means of its buoyancy engine. When the volume of oil in the external bladder and the volume of displacement decrease, the glider becomes less buoyant and dives down naturally due to gravity. Conversely, when the oil volume in the external bladder and the volume of displacement increase, the glider becomes more buoyant and naturally floats upward.

In addition to its movement, the glider's center of gravity can also be changed by controlling the battery counterweight inside it, making the glider move forward. When the battery counterweight is moved forward, the bow will sink downward and cause the glider to dive downward and forward; when the battery counterweight is moved backward, the bow will float upward, causing the glider to move forward and upward. Since the glider uses power only when changing its buoyancy and center of gravity, it is efficient enough to perform long-distance, large-scale observation missions in the ocean by moving with a zigzag trajectory.

The underwater glider, jointly developed by NARLabs' TORI and Sun Yat-sen University's Institute of Underwater Technology, is also equipped with salinity, temperature, and depth sensors for measuring hydrographic information. When the glider surfaces, the antenna at its back end will receive GPS signals to confirm its coordinates, and through Iridium satellite communication, it can communicate with the land control station to transmit valuable survey data and receive new navigation instructions.

At present, deep-water testing of the glider prototype's buoyancy engine has already been completed, and gliding tests have been successfully performed in several round-trip cruises in Kenting's South Bay and the area around Liuqiu Island. In the future, the glider will carry out formal missions on R/V Legend or R/V New Ocean Researcher 1, 2, or 3.