MOD Development engineer, Tyler Hughen, with the three sizes of the Wirewalker wave-powered profiling vehicle.

From the earliest days of modern oceanography, technology has enabled new and vital insights into the functioning of the ocean. A major pathway of oceanographic research is into physical and biogeochemical dynamics that evolve rapidly in time and space. Traditionally, measuring at those scales requires either a vessel or other platform to raise and lower an instrument package rapidly, or the deployment of a mooring with many instruments attached a many depths. Both approaches are extremely expensive.

In 1999, Rob Pinkel, Mike Goldin (MOD Principal Engineer), and then-student Luc Rainville built the first Wirewalker wave-powered profiler. The Wirewalker was designed to address the need for inexpensive, rapid profiling of a field-modifiable payload. The key advance of the Wirewalker was to use energy of the  surface wind waves to drive the vehicle vertically. Thus a single instrument package can be used to sample across a range of depths, at no energy cost.

The Wirewalker has undergone constant refinement over the past 18 years, and is now a work-horse platform for ONR and NSF globally. We also deploy arrays of Wirewalkers for local coastal oceanographic research and environmental engineering. A significant part of the current technology development activities of the MOD group revolves around the Wirewalker platform, including real-time telemetry, onboard power generation, and miniaturization. Environmental power generation, particularly, is an attractive solution for prolonged sampling endurance in profiling and traditional moorings.