Silbo, the autonomous submarine that spent more than 3 years traveling the Atlantic Ocean

When it comes to autonomous locomotion, the work done in the field of cars has always stood out. However, in the maritime field there have also been efforts in the development of vehicles powered without human intervention.

Proof of this is represented by the Slocum G2 glider (also nicknamed Silbo), an autonomous submarine that completed by itself a circumnavigation in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, taking 1273 days or just over 3 years, to complete its crossing.

To do this, the developers of the Slocum G2 segmented their journey into 4 stages. The first of them started in 2016, departing from Cape Cod, Massachusetts where it received modifications in its power bay and its propeller to later depart for Ireland, completing a route of 6557 km in 330 days.

From Ireland it will then depart for the Canary Islands covering a stretch of 3695 km in 178 days. It should be noted that the Canary Islands represented Silbo’s original destination on his maiden voyage made in 2011 where he departed from Iceland, where it was built by Teledyne Marine, a manufacturer of autonomous underwater vehicles.

After arriving in the Canary Islands, Silbo was taken on a 6256 km flight through the Atlantic Ocean to the Santo Tomas region in the US Virgin Islands. There the vehicle was subjected to a recovery process by university students. Teledyne locals and technicians who replaced the batteries and then reactivated their march until completing their final stretch in less than 24 hours.

After arriving in Santo Tomas, Silbo would then leave for Marthas Vineyard, an island located off the coast of Massachusetts, completing a section of 6236 km, which lasted 348 days. In the end it was determined that this autonomous glider covered a total stretch of 22744 km.

A journey with purpose

Throughout Silbo’s journey, different scientists interacted to obtain the data collected by the vehicle and then use it for a variety of applications.

In this sense, during the more than 3 years traveled, Silbo collected mostly meteorological data generated by hurricanes, storms and ocean conditions that resulted in more than 5 thousand data readings that contributed to the metallurgical forecast.

In addition, Silbo has helped researchers better understand the demands of long-distance unmanned underwater exploration.

Despite the long period that Silbo spent at sea on his tour, he only needed a change in the battery, be subjected to occasional cleaning and the repair of a scratch on his hull.

In reference to the feat accomplished by Silbo, Rutgers University professor on the Board of Governors, Scott Glenn expressed A mission itches! A technological achievement, a global team-building achievement, with data impact on hurricanes and others. A 4-year mission for the record books. Congratulations to everyone involved!