One week training in ocean gliders and remotely controlled vehicles in the Canary Islands.

Last week I followed a one-week training at the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands (PLOCAN) focused on ocean glider understanding and manipulation. All information on this glider school can be found here:

Underwater gliders are now commonly used to measure ocean properties, from temperature and salinity to current velocities and oxygen levels. They are remotely controlled vehicles which glide through the water. Changing their density by inflating and deflating an external bladder allows to move them forward, while their wings control their direction. They offer a particularly energy efficient alternative to expensive research cruise. Contrarily to traditionally propelled underwater vehicles, they can last months in water.

Underwater gliders typically follow a sawtooth pattern when deployed, and they sample the water both during ascent and descent. When surfacing, they exchange information with mission control through Iridium, which is an open ocean internet connection working thanks to satellites.

Gliders are a part of the fleet at disposition at the Marine Institute, Co. Galway. For our research on the European Slope Currents, a glider was deployed in Spring 2020 on the northwest European shelf-edge. Further deployments are now under examination.

From Monday 25 October to Friday 29 October, I followed a one-week glider training hosted in PLOCAN, the Oceanographic platform of the Canary Islands. This glider school provided theoretical and practical training in underwater gliders to students coming from Europe and elsewhere in the world.

The glider school allowed me and the other students to manipulate the Slocum and Seaexplorer gliders, respectively from Teledyne and Alseamar. We also trained to use a surface vehicle, the Wave Glider from Liquid Robotics. This vehicle relies on wave energy to move forward, making it, similarly to underwater glider, a (relatively) cheap technology. We had the opportunity to dismantle the gliders, review the remote control options offered by the glider manufacturers, and deploy the vehicles in the ocean.

This glider school was superb in many aspects. I feel very honoured to have met other scientists and doctorands working in subjects related to what I am doing. While the school was hard work, relaxing by the sea in the evening with the others allowed us to get to know one another. The water was as warm as the air (23° C) for most of the week, although the air temperature rose by Friday. This meant we could all enjoy some evening swims, which is an unusual thing to do during the last week of October. Discovering Gran Canaria was indeed a lovely experience.

Sam Tiéfolo Diabaté
Sam Tiéfolo Diabaté
Doctoral researcher in Physical Oceanography

My research focuses on ocean currents and sea level.