For less than $3,000 a day: (1) BP can get data on water quality in the Gulf of Mexico, a job that used to require multimillion-dollar buoys; (2) government scientists can track the effects of acidification on ocean species, without using expensive ships, crews, and fuel; and (3) the U.S. Navy can stealthily monitor waters for suspicious activity. Liquid Robotics, creator of the surfboard-size Wave Glider  robot, makes this possible. The robots harvest sunlight to power sensors and electronic equipment, and use wave-motion energy to propel themselves long distances. "When you give this tool to a scientist or an educator, the possibility of innovation is unbounded," says CEO Bill Vass . "Things you never thought were possible have now become economic."
Illustration by Peter Oumanski