Underwater and surface drones, in particular gliders, have become essential vehicles for carrying sensor and scientific instrumentation for most environmental observations from the surface to 6,000 m and for activities supporting the blue economy. Their main advantages are that they are mobile, steerable, persistent and usable in large numbers and at relatively low cost. However, the distributed infrastructure required to exploit these assets must be capable of meeting different demands, from research and monitoring of the marine environment, to public service missions and industry needs, which require customised sensor technology and operations. The rapid evolution of these technologies (robotics, artificial intelligence, sensors, big data) requires the R&D resources offered by this distributed infrastructure to be continuously adapted to user demands.
The complex hardware and IT characteristics of this distributed European infrastructure, which optimise access to resources and R&D for gliders, were analysed during the design study of the GROOM-FP7 project from the perspective of the needs of research and of the Global and (future) European Ocean Observing System (GOOS and EOOS). Since then, several “gliderports” have been developed which have fostered the relevant European innovative industrial sector.
The GROOM II project, building on its predecessor, will provide the decision basis for an Advanced Marine Research Infrastructure that promotes scientific excellence, fosters innovation, supports the blue economy, builds industrial and public partnerships and works to help achieve the common research and innovation mission for the Europe of the future. The project will define the overall organisation of an infrastructure dedicated to ocean research and innovation, and maritime services in support of blue growth. This infrastructure will be a positive step against the current fragmented European landscape, helping connections and synergies for the realisation of GOOS and EOOS.