SARASOTA, Florida -- Mote scientists spent Thursday using side-scan sonar in an effort to find a scientific robot that has been missing since Monday, Aug. 31, 2009. Now we're seeking the public's help for the safe return of the robot nicknamed "Waldo." (Yes, after that Waldo!)
The robot - an autonomous underwater vehicle or AUV for short - had been patrolling the waters off Southwest Florida for five days looking for signs of red tide. The robot is equipped with a BreveBusterTM, a device designed and built by Mote scientist Dr. Gary Kirkpatrick that can automatically detect the presence of red tide in the water.
The AUVs are designed to glide up and down and forward through the water, sending signals to satellites each time they surface. Waldo was tooling along offshore from Venice just fine, making reports every two hours between Aug. 26 and 31.
"Then, bam, it just stopped sending a signal," Kirkpatrick said. "There are a few possibilities that we think are likely: It could have had a major leak or malfunction and sank to the bottom and is just sitting there. Or, it could have had a malfunction with its computer or its communication system and is floating on the surface but unable to tell us that it's there."