Local researchers send underwater robots to assist in response to Santa Barbara oil spill

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The Scripps Institution of Oceanography's underwater robot is roaming the area near the oil spill off Santa Barbara.

The glider has a battery of sensors, including those measuring water temperatures, salinity, currents and plankton size. At the moment, the 7-foot long, 100-pound "Spray" glider is mere miles from the oil spill.

The glider is one of five Scripps robots now roaming the coast of California. The one near Santa Barbara owns a critical mission.

"Our goal is to help," said researcher Dan Rudnick. "All of our data right now is being fed real time into these models."

The models will predict how far and where the oil slick where travel.

"To recover that oil is quickly as possible because that's the best thing you can do for wildlife … is to get rid of it," said Rudnick.

The glider's deep-dive ability came in handy important in 2010. As the Gulf oil spill continued to gush, one of the gliders took measurements.

The data collected will help predict how current affects future spills.

The spill off Santa Barbara is much more shallow, but the slider's measurements could be key to stopping a spill.

Researchers say the robots -- which are always in the water -- were set up to react quickly to events such as spills.

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