Spray underwater glider operations

Rudnick, DL, Davis RE, Sherman JT.  2016.  Spray underwater glider operations. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology. 33:1113-1122.

Date Published:



california current system, ocean research


Operational statistics for the Spray underwater glider are presented to demonstrate capabilities for sustained observations. An underwater glider is an autonomous device that profiles vertically by changing buoyancy and flies horizontally on wings. The focus has been on sustained observations of boundary currents to take advantage of the glider's small size, which allows it to be deployed and recovered from small vessels close to land, and the fine horizontal resolution delivered by the glider, which is scientifically desirable in boundary regions. Since 2004, Spray underwater gliders have been deployed for over 28 000 days, traveling over 560 000 km, and delivering over 190 000 profiles. More than 10 gliders, on average, have been in the water since 2012. Statistics are given in the form of histograms for 297 completed glider missions of longer than 5 days. The statistics include mission duration, number of dives, distance over ground, and horizontal and vertical distance through water. A discussion of problems, losses, and short missions includes a survival analysis. The most extensive work was conducted in the California Current system, where observations on three across-shorelines have been sustained, with 97% coverage since 2009. While the authors have certain advantages as developers and builders of the Spray underwater glider and Spray may have design and construction advantages, they believe these statistics are a sound basis for optimism about the widespread future of gliders in oceanographic observing.