So a little while back, I had mentioned that Rutgers had received the first of what will be the fleet of 16 gliders meant for the Challenger Mission: Ru 29, Challenger 01. This summer, while we were finishing up Silbo's mission, a team consisting of Rutgers and U.S. Naval Academy students began preparing Ru 29 for its test mission. Then, early yesterday morning, we departed from Rutgers and drove down to Atlantic City where we boarded the Sea Tow boat Cape Hatteras.
Once secured, we set off on a 50 mile, 2.5 hr trip to get out into deep enough water for Challenger to fly.
Once we were out far enough, the three students from USNA cast the Sea Bird ctd and ran the final checks in preparation for launch.
Then 29 was wheeled to the edge and it's maiden voyage was under way!
Once in the water, the team moved into the cabin, where they ran a few tests to confirm everything was working correctly, before we sent 29 on its way.
Now, it is time to shift gears and focus on piloting. We have a few things to consider over the next couple of weeks as we conduct 29's test flight. As of right now, we are flying in pretty shallow water (61 m). Challenger, however is a stretch deep glider and so we need to get to waters over 1000m to run tests. So we head to the shelf where the bathymetry drops from 150m to 2100m over 21 km. However, between 29 and our our goal, there are quite a few obstacles: shipping lanes that can strike and sink us in the blink of an eye, fishing boats armed with nets that can capture us damaging the wings tail and ctd, and strong currents that can push us back towards shore.
To protect us from the shipping lanes and fishing traffic, we have a number of ais and shipping over lays for google earth that will steer us clear of the ships. We also have a protocol which calls for making our inflections sub surface and making more yo's between calling in to minimize time spent near the surface to keep away from the hulls of the ships. One the weekends, the fishing traffic on the shelf tends to pick up, and as today is the first day of summer, we can expect the area to be quite busy this weekend. Judging by the currents, it looks like we will be roughly 4 days until we reach the shelf so we are discussing the possibility of waiting to cross until Monday, loosing us a few days of valuable testing, or risking the shipping and making a break for the shelf through the danger.
The other hazard at hand is the currents. Looking at the previous 24 hrs compared to the most recent surfacing, it looks like we are seeing an inertial oscillation in which the direction of the currents do a complete 360˚ giving us a variation of stints of good and bad distance covered. As we close in on the shelf, we need to keep an eye on the position of the canyons. There, we see strong jets of water that could also slow us down, or potentially push us back towards shore.
Finally looking into the future, we need to understand what is happening in the deep water. Once we get out, we only have a couple of weeks to run our tests. We need to see how the currents are moving, that way we don't get caught and pulled out too far away from shore. This could potentially cut down the already limited time we have to run the tests we need. It will be crucial to keep an eye on all of these factors as we continue this test flight through the weekend.
Here is a link to the Ru Cool Flickr page for a complete set of the pictures I took along with a video of the deployment: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rutgers_cool/sets/72157630207739484/