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Tahoe deputies help find missing UC Davis research robot that resembles torpedo

UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center uses an autonomous underwater robot to study the lake and its climate.
UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center uses an autonomous underwater robot to study the lake and its climate.

Deputies with a Lake Tahoe patrol crew helped recover a malfunctioning robot deployed by UC Davis researchers to study climate change, Placer County Sheriff's Office reported Sunday on Facebook.

And it's a good thing they picked it up before someone else did, because the yellow-and-blue device bears a fairly strong resemblance to a torpedo.

The autonomous underwater vehicle, nicknamed a "glider," was studying the lake's relationship with the area's winds and temperatures as part of a mission for the university's Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

The glider suffered a software malfunction and surfaced near the lake's west shore. Placer County Sheriff's North Lake Tahoe Marine Patrol crew helped recover it, and according to the Facebook post, it should be repairable.

A couple of Facebook commenters agreed that the glider had the potential to stir up a bomb scare had the deputies not recovered it. There is definitely a resemblance, though torpedoes do not typically have wings.

TERC was founded in 2004 and has used gliders to collect data on Lake Tahoe multiple times. In a recent newsletter, the research center said one of its gliders is named Storm Petrel.

The use of unmanned robots is preferable to standard boats, as UC Davis Assistant Professor Alex Forrest explained to the Tahoe Daily Tribune last year.

"The advantage to using this as opposed to bringing a boat out and doing sampling is this is able to work continuously, even during big storm events," Forrest told the Tribune.

The university has also used Storm Petrel to study ice shelves in Antarctica, the Davis Enterprise reported in May 2017.

TERC plans to send the glider to study a lake in Switzerland after it finishes its Tahoe mission, the Sheriff's Office said in the Facebook post.

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