Aquatic Robot Braves Volcanoes and Typhoons to Detect Tsunamis By Mark Harris

Summary of Article: A massive marine volcano called Nishinoshima has erupted dozens of times south of Tokyo, spewing red-hot lava. If Nishinoshima’s rocky slopes collapse during an eruption, they could cause a deadly tsunami that would reach the Ogasawara islands in 20 minutes. Scientists are planning to give the islanders a robotic protector: an extremely expensive Wave Glider drone that harvests wave and solar energy to power itself for months. Geologist Hiroko Sugioka realized that a mobile system stationed near fault lines is simpler and cheaper than a permanent one. The key part of the system is the Vector TsunaMeter. This device detects changes in the water level. Salty ocean water is a good electrical conductor. As a tsunami moves through the Earth’s magnetic field, electric fields are generated, which induce secondary magnetic fields. The VTM correlates disturbances in these fields with pressure changes to detect how big a tsunami is and where it is headed. If it works, Japan might roll out a network of tsunami-spotting drones.

Here is a photo of the areas in Japan that are most affected by tsunamis. These areas could benefit from the water glider drone.

Check out this video to see detection systems that have been tried in the past!

Perhaps the new system could help Japan prepare for this kind of destruction.

Analysis of the Article/What further steps need to be taken?: This article is noteworthy because not only could this be a huge advancement for science, it can save many people by helping Japan prepare for future tsunamis. While it is very expensive and some kinks need to be worked out, scientists believe that it is completely worth it, and that the benefits will outweigh the costs. The more funding and support for this new technology, the more people could potentially be saved from typhoons and tsunamis. It is also a great model for solar and wave energy use, which could promote the use of renewable resources. This could also be economically beneficial to Japan in the long run because if it works well, many other places may want to invest in these drones. The next steps that need to be taken are to raise more money, and to test out the drone. If it works, more steps towards producing more drones can be taken into consideration.

This is a map of the path the typhoon took in Japan in October. The path of future typhoons can be detected with the new drone.
Here is a photo of what the drone looks like in water!

My "Big Takeaway": I selected this article because I have always been interested in researching tsunamis, particularly in Japan. I think that this new drone could be the start to a revelation to save many people and open new doors for scientific discoveries, and I think that it is well worth the money. I also believe that if it is successful, it could eventually pay for itself in Japan, and benefit them economically. I am curious to learn if this particular system will be more successful than other technology that has been tried out in the past, and if so, what had been done differently to change the outcome.

This graph shows the height of a Japan tsunami. Maybe with the new drone, this information could be detected as the tsunami is approaching!

Watch this video footage of the 2011 tsunami in Japan

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