Slocum Glider Payload CTD

Slocum Glider Payload CTD

Low-power profiling CTD designed specifically for installation in Slocum gliders.

The Slocum Glider Payload CTD is a low-power profiling instrument designed specifically for installation in Slocum gliders. It has the high accuracy necessary for research, updating ocean models, assessing sensor stability on moored observatories, and leveraging data collection opportunities from operational vehicle missions. The externally powered, continuously pumped CTD consumes only 240 mW sampling continuously at 1/2 Hz. One Alkaline C cell could operate the CTD continuously for 37 hours (3 days at 50% duty cycle, profiling continuously at ½ Hz on every glider upcast); a 50% duty cycle for 30 days uses only 4.2% of a typical Slocum glider’s alkaline energy capacity (7.8 MJ). Data are output in engineering units or raw decimal counts.


  • Conductivity, Temperature, and Pressure.
    • Assembly visible on glider exterior consists of intake sail (with integral T-C duct and anti-foulant device), internal field conductivity cell, and exhaust sail attached to a rectangular science bay hatch cover. Electronics, pump motor, and pressure transducer are attached to hatch cover underside and enclosed in waterproof calibration housing. Intake sail allows measurements to be made outside vehicle’s boundary flow (where old water is thermally contaminated by vehicle). Pump pulls water into intake sail, past temperature sensor, through anti-foulant device and conductivity cell, and out exhaust sail (preventing exhaust re-circulation and Bernoulli pressure differences from changing flow rate). Outside of conductivity cell is free-flushed, minimizing salinity errors.
  • RS-232 interface, real-time output, externally powered (for use on vehicles that can supply power and acquire data).
  • Two sampling modes:
    • Continuous Sampling (autorun = yes) runs pump continuously and samples every 2 sec, producing time series suitable for corrections (e.g. response filtering, alignment, thermal mass correction) for dynamic errors in data.
    • Polled Sampling (autorun = no) acquires and transmits data on command. For valid salinity data, pump must be run prior to sampling.
  • Unique flow path, pumping regimen, and expendable anti-foulant device, for maximum bio-fouling protection.
  • Pump-controlled, T-C ducted flow to minimize salinity spiking.
  • Field-proven design based on Argo float CTD, with more than 10,000 Argo float CTDs deployed.
  • Seasoft© V2 Windows software package (setup, data processing).
  • Five-year limited warranty.


  • Unique internal-field conductivity cell permits use of expendable anti-foulant device, for long-term bio-fouling protection.
  • Aged and pressure-protected thermistor has a long history of exceptional accuracy and stability.
  • Pressure sensor with temperature compensation is available in four strain-gauge ranges (to 2000 m).
  • For Continuous sampling, pump runs continuously, providing bio-fouling protection and correlation of CTD measurements.

Measurement Range

Conductivity 0 to 9 S/m (calibrated 0 to 6 S/m)
Temperature -5 to +42 °C (calibrated +1 to +32 °C)
Pressure 0 to 100 / 350 / 1000 / 2000 m (calibrated to full scale)

Initial Accuracy

Conductivity In calibration range: ± 0.0003 S/m; Outside calibration range 1: ± 0.0010 S/m
Temperature In calibration range: ± 0.002 °C; Outside calibration range 1: ± 0.004 °C
Pressure In calibration range: ± 0.1% of full scale range;

1 Due to fit extrapolation errors.


Conductivity 0.00001 S/m
Temperature 0.001 °C
Pressure 0.002% of full scale range


Sampling Speed 1/2 Hz (1 sample/2 sec)
External Power Requirements, Flushing, and Sample Timing

8 to 20 VDC nominal.
Quiescent current: 30 µA
Continuous (1/2 Hz) Sampling: 241 mW (2.9 Watt-hours/day @ 50% duty)

Example Spot Sampling, Flushing, and Sample Timing Comparison:

  PumpFast PumpSlow
Flow rate  14 ml/sec 9 ml/sec
Time to pump 110 ml*  7.8 sec 12.2 sec
Power to pump 110 ml 2.56 Joules 1.93 Joules
Time to end of sample after TakeSample 2.65 sec 2.65 sec
Power during sampling*  0.74 Joules  0.64 Joules
Duration of spot sample operation 7.8 - 1.2 + 2.65 = 9.25 sec 12.2 - 1.2 + 2.65 = 13.65 sec
Total power per spot sample (time)  3.3 Joules 2.57 Joules
* Includes 1.2 sec pumping after TakeSample sent. Recommended interval between PumpFast and TakeSample is 6.6 (7) sec.
Data Format Real-time data in decimal: S/m, °C, decibars, or raw decimal counts.
Housing, Depth Rating, & Weight CTD & integral pump: in air 1.1 kg, in water 0.4 kg.
Calibration housing immersion depth: 10 m maximum


The list below includes (as applicable) the current product brochure, manual, and quick guide; software manual(s); and application notes.

How often do I need to have my instrument and/or auxiliary sensors recalibrated? Can I recalibrate them myself?

General recommendations:

  • Profiling CTD — recalibrate once/year, but possibly less often if used only occasionally. We recommend that you return the CTD to Sea-Bird for recalibration. (In principle, it is possible for calibration to be performed elsewhere, if the calibration facility has the appropriate equipment andtraining. However, the necessary equipment is quite expensive to buy and maintain.) In between laboratory calibrations, take field salinity samples to document conductivity cell drift.
  • Thermosalinograph — recalibrate at least once/year, but possibly more often depending on the degree of bio-fouling in the water.
  • DO sensor —
    — SBE 43 — recalibrate once/year, but possibly less often if used only occasionally and stored correctly (see Application Note 64), and also depending on the amount of fouling and your ability to do some simple validations (see Application Note 64-2)
    — SBE 63 — recalibrate once/year, but possibly less often if used only occasionally and stored correctly and also depending on the amount of fouling and your ability to do some simple validations (see SBE 63 manual)
  • pH sensor —
    — SBE 18 pH sensor or SBE 27 pH/ORP sensor — recalibrate at the start of every cruise, and then at least once/month, depending on use and storage
    — Satlantic SeaFET pH sensor — recalibrate at least once/year. See FAQ tab on Satlantic's SeaFET page for details (How often does the SeaFET need to be calibrated?).
  • Transmissometer — usually do not require recalibration for several years. Recalibration at the manufacturer’s factory is the most practical method.

Profiling CTDs:

We often have requests from customers to have some way to know if the CTD is out of calibration. The general character of sensor drift in Sea-Bird conductivity, temperature, and pressure measurements is well known and predictable. However, it is very difficult to know precisely how far a CTD calibration has drifted over time unless you have access to a very sophisticated calibration lab. In our experience, an annual calibration schedule will usually maintain the CTD accuracy to within 0.01 psu in Salinity.

Conductivity drifts as a change in slope as a result of accumulated fouling that coats the inside of the conductivity cell, reducing the area of the cell and causing an under-reporting of conductivity. Fouling consists of both biological growth and accumulated oils and inorganic material (sediment). Approximately 95% of fouling occurs as the cell passes through oil and other contaminants floating on the sea surface. Most conductivity fouling is episodic, as opposed to gradual and steady drift. Most fouling events are small and mostly transitory, but they have a cumulative affect over time. A severe fouling event, such as deployment through an oil spill, could have a dramatic but only partially recoverable effect, causing an immediate jump shift toward lower salinity. As fouling becomes more severe, the fit becomes increasingly non-linear and offsets and slopes no longer produce adequate correction, and return to Sea-Bird for factory calibration is required. Frequently checking conductivity drift is likely to be the most productive data assurance measure you can take. Comparing conductivity from profile to profile (as a routine check) will allow you to detect sudden changes that may indicate a fouling event and the need for cleaning and/or re-calibration.

Temperature generally drifts slowly, at a steady rate and predictably as a simple offset at the rate of about 1-2 millidegrees per year. This is approximately equal to 1-2 parts per million in Salinity error (very small).

Pressure sensor drift is also an offset, and annual comparisons to an accurate barometer to determine offset will generally keep the sensor within specification for several years, particularly as the sensors age over time.

Do I need to clean the exterior of my instrument before shipping it to Sea-Bird for calibration?

Remove as much biological material and/or anti-foul coatings as possible before shipping. Sea-Bird cannot place an instrument with a large amount of biological material or anti-foul coating on the housing in our calibration bath; if we need to clean the exterior before calibration, we will charge you for this service.

  • To remove barnacles, plug the ends of the conductivity cell to prevent the cleaning solution from getting into the cell. Then soak the entire instrument in white vinegar for a few minutes. After scraping off the barnacles and marine growth, rinse the instrument well with fresh water.
  • To remove anti-foul paint, use a Heavy Duty Scotch-Brite pad ( or similar scrubbing device.

What are the recommended practices for connectors - mating and unmating, cleaning corrosion, and replacing?

Mating and Unmating Connectors:

It is important to prepare and mate connectors correctly, both in terms of the costs to repair them and to preserve data quality. Leaking connectors cause noisy data and even potential system shutdowns. Application Note 57: Connector Care and Cable Installation describes the proper care and installation of connectors for Sea-Bird instruments. The Application Note covers connector cleaning and cable or dummy plug installation, locking sleeve installation, and cold weather tips.

Checking for Leakage and Cleaning Corrosion on Connectors:

If there has been leakage, it will show up as green-colored corrosion product. Performing the following steps can usually reverse the effect of the leak:

  1. Thoroughly clean the connector with water, followed by alcohol.
  2. Give the connector surfaces a light coating of silicon grease.

Re-mate the connectors properly — see Application Note 57: Connector Care and Cable Installation and 9-minute video covering O-ring, connector, and cable maintenance.

Replacing Connectors:

  • The main concern when replacing a bulkhead connector is that the o-rings on the connector and end cap must be prepared and installed correctly; if they are not, the instrument will flood. See the question below for general procedure on handling o-rings.
  • Use a thread-locking compound on the connector threads to prevent the new connector from loosening, which could also lead to flooding.
  • If the cell guard must be removed to open the instrument, take extra care not to break the glass conductivity cell.

What are the recommended practices for storing sensors at low temperatures, and deploying at low temperatures or in frazil or pancake ice?


Large numbers of Sea-Bird conductivity instruments have been used in Arctic and Antarctic programs.

Special accommodation to keep temperature, conductivity, oxygen, and optical sensors at or above 0 C is advised. Often, the CTD is brought inside protective doors between casts to achieve this.

Conductivity Cell

When freezing is possible, we recommend that the conductivity sensor be stored dry. Remove larger droplets of water by blowing through the cell. Do not use compressed air, which typically contains oil vapor. Attach a length of Tygon tubing to each end of the conductivity cell to close the cell ends. See Application Note 2D: Instructions for Care and Cleaning of Conductivity Cells for details.

There are several considerations to weigh when contemplating deployments at low temperatures in general, and in frazil or pancake ice:

  • Ensure that the instrument is at or above water temperature before it is deployed. If the cell gets colder than 0 to -2 ºC while on deck, when it enters the water a layer of ice forms inside the cell as the cell warms to ocean temperature. If ice forms inside the conductivity cell, measurements will be low of correct until the ice layer melts and disappears. Thin layers of ice will not hurt the conductivity cell, but repeated ice formation on the electrodes will degrade the conductivity calibration (at levels of 0.001 to 0.020 psu) and thicker layers of ice can lead to glass fracture and permanent damage of the cell.
  • For accurate measurements, keep ice out of the sensing region of the conductivity cell. The conductivity measurement involves determining the electrical resistance of the water inside the sensor. Ice is essentially a non-conductor. To the extent that ice displaces the water, the conductivity will register (very) misleadingly low. Some type of screening is necessary to keep ice out of the cell. This is relatively easy to arrange for the Sea-Bird conductivity cell, which is an electrode-type cell, because its sensing region is totally inside a long tube; plastic mesh could be positioned at each end and would have zero effect on accuracy and stability.

The above considerations apply to all known conductivity sensor types, whether electrode or inductive types. 

If deploying at low temperatures but no surface frazil or pancake ice is present, rinse the conductivity cell in one of the following salty solutions (salty water depresses the freezing point) to prevent freezing during deployment. But this does not mean you can store the cell in one of these solutions outside . . . it will freeze.

  • Solution of 1% Triton in sterile seawater (use 0.5-micron filtered seawater or boiled seawater),   or
  • Brine solution (distilled seawater or homemade salt solution that is higher than 35 psu in salinity).

Note that there is still a risk of forming ice inside the conductivity cell if deploying through frazil or pancake ice on the surface, if the freezing point of the salt water is the same as the water temperature. Therefore, we recommend that you deploy the conductivity cell in a dry state for these deployments.

Commercially available alcohol or glycol antifreezes contain trace amounts of oils that will coat the conductivity cell and the electrodes, causing a calibration shift, and consequently result in errors in the data. Do not use alcohol or glycol in the conductivity cell.

Temperature Sensor

In general, neither the accuracy of the temperature measurement nor the survival of the temperature sensor will be affected by ice.

Oxygen Sensor

For the SBE 43 and SBE 63 Dissolved Oxygen sensor, avoid prolonged exposure to freezing temperature, including during shipment. Do not store the with water (fresh or seawater), Triton solution, alcohol, or glycol in the plenum. The best precaution is to keep the sensor indoors or in some shelter out of the cold weather.

Can I use a pressure sensor above its rated pressure?

Digiquartz pressure sensors are used in the SBE 9plus, 53, and 54. The SBE 16plus V2, 16plus-IM V2, 19plus V2, and 26plus can be equipped with either a Druck pressure sensor or a Digiquartz pressure sensor. All other instruments that include pressure use a Druck pressure sensor.

  • The overpressure rating for a Digiquartz (as stated by Paroscientific) is 1.2 * full scale. The sensor will provide data values above 100% of rated full scale; however, Sea-Bird does not calibrate beyond the rated full scale.
  • The overpressure rating for a Druck (as stated by Druck) is 1.5 * full scale. The sensor will provide data values above 100% of rated full scale; however, Sea-Bird does not calibrate beyond the rated full scale.

Note: If you use the instrument above the rated range, you do so at your own risk; the product will not be covered under warranty.


Compare Profiling CTDs (Conductivity, Temperature, and Pressure)

SBE Sampling Rate Channels for Auxiliary Sensors Memory Power Real-Time Data Comments
Internal External
SBE 911plus CTD (9plus CTD & 11plus Deck Unit) 24 Hz

8 A/D

16 Mb with optional SBE 17plus V2
(with optional SBE 17plus V2)
World's most accurate, high resolution CTD, premium sensors, multi-parameter support, water sampler control.
SBE 25plus Sealogger CTD 16 Hz 8 A/D;
2 RS-232
2 Gb
May require SBE 36 CTD Deck Unit & PDIM
High-resolution logging CTD with multi-parameter support. Water sampler control with SBE 33 Carousel Deck Unit.
SBE 25 Sealogger CTD
8 Hz 7 A/D 8 Mb
May require SBE 36 CTD Deck Unit & PDIM
Replaced by SBE 25plus in 2012. Water sampler control with SBE 33 Carousel Deck Unit.
SBE 19plus V2 SeaCAT Profiler CTD 4 Hz 6 A/D;
1 RS-232
64 Mb
May require SBE 36 CTD Deck Unit & PDIM
Personal CTD, small, self-contained, adequate resolution. Water sampler control with SBE 33 Carousel Deck Unit.
SBE 19plus SeaCAT Profiler CTD
4 Hz 4 A/D; optional PAR 8 Mb
May require SBE 36 CTD Deck Unit & PDIM
Replaced by SBE 19plus V2 in 2008. Water sampler control with SBE 33 Carousel Deck Unit.
SBE 19 SeaCAT Profiler CTD
2 Hz 4 A/D 1 - 8 Mb
May require SBE 36 CTD Deck Unit & PDIM
Replaced by SBE 19plus in 2001. Water sampler control with SBE 33 Carousel Deck Unit.
SBE 49 FastCAT CTD Sensor 16 Hz      
May require SBE 36 CTD Deck Unit & PDIM
For towed vehicle, ROV, AUV, or other autonomous profiling applications. Water sampler control with SBE 33 Carousel Deck Unit.
SBE 52-MP Moored Profiler CTD & (optional) Dissolved Oxygen Sensor 1 Hz 1 frequency channel for dissolved oxygen sensor 28,000 samples   Intended for moored profiling applications on device that is winched up and down from a buoy or bottom-mounted platform.
SBE 41/41CP CTD Module for Autonomous Profiling Floats (Argo) OEM CTD for sub-surface oceanographic float that surfaces at regular intervals, transmits new drift position and in situ measurements to ARGOS satellite system. CTD obtains latest temperature and salinity profile for transmission on each ascent. Also available is a Navis Autonomous Profiling Float, Navis BGCi Autonomous Profiling Float with Integrated Biogeochemical Sensors, and Navis BGCi + pH Autonomous Profiling Float with Integrated Biogeochemical Sensors
Glider Payload CTD (GPCTD) and Slocum Glider Payload CTD OEM CTD for autonomous gliders. Generic Glider Payload CTD (GPCTD) is modular, low-power profiling instrument that measures C, T, P, and (optional) Dissolved Oxygen. Slocum Glider Payload CTD provides retrofit/replacement for CTDs on Slocum gliders. Designs share many features, but there are differences in packaging, sampling abilities, power consumption, and installation (see individual data sheets).
1. See Application Note 82: Guide to Specifying a CTD.
2. products are no longer in production. Follow the links above to the product page to retrieve manuals and application notes for these older products.