World’s Most Advanced Autonomous Research Vehicle Completes 2,250 Miles Voyage.
After 28 days in the water, the uncrewed, autonomous, Saildrone Surveyor completed its groundbreaking voyage from San Francisco to Honolulu, Hawaii.
Ocean crossing for Saildrone’s autonomous surface vehicles is not a new feat for Saildrone, which designs, manufactures, and operates a fleet of the world’s most well-known and capable uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), but this particular Saildrone Surveyor is a new, much larger class of vehicle, optimized for deep-ocean mapping. During its voyage, the Saildrone Surveyor sailed 2,250 nautical miles, while mapping 6,400 square nautical miles of seafloor.
Primarily powered by renewable wind and solar energy, the Saildrone Surveyor is the only vehicle in the world that has the capabilities of long endurance, uncrewed ocean mapping. The data collected from the saildrone surveyor will help address issues impacting the world, such as climate change, offshore renewable energy, natural resource management, and maritime safety.
At 72 feet long (22 m) and weighing 14 tonnes, the Saildrone Surveyor is facilitated with an array of acoustic instruments, usually carried by large, manned survey ships. The Surveyor can examine underwater ecosystems and map the seafloor in high resolution to a depth of 23,000 feet (7,000m) because of its sensors interrogating the water column.
An external team from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) will assess the multibeam data that’s been calibrated from the Saildrone Surveyor.
“The data quality from the Surveyor is of very high quality, as good as anything we have seen from a ship,” said Larry Mayer, director for the UNH Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM). “Due to the wind-powered nature of the vehicle, it is very quiet, and this enables the very accurate acoustic measurements needed to map to these depths.”
Although 70 percent of our planet is covered by water, 80 percent of it remains unmapped and unexplored. Due to the high cost to access our oceans – which has traditionally been undertaken by large ships – there remains a large part of underwater that is unexplored. The ships used to explore the vast oceans can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and hundreds of thousands of dollars to operate per day. That is why Saildrone Surveyor is so appealing, performing the same job as a survey ship, but at a fraction of the cost and carbon footprint.
“This successful maiden voyage marks a revolution in our ability to understand our planet,” said Richard Jenkins, Saildrone founder, and CEO. “We have solved the challenge of reliable long-range, large-payload remote maritime operations. An offshore survey can now be accomplished without a large ship and crew; this completely changes operational economics for our customers. Based on this achievement, I am excited to apply Saildrone Surveyor technology to other markets normally reserved for large ships, such as homeland security and defense applications. The implications of a low-carbon solution to these critical maritime missions are significant.”
Following the success of this voyage, the Californian company will now move forward in building several Surveyors to be manufactured at US shipyards. In the next 10 years, Saildrone’s goal is to map all oceans on our planet.
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