While ocean crossings aren’t new to Saildrone’s autonomous surface vehicles, the Saildrone Surveyor is a new and much larger class of vehicles optimized for deep-ocean mapping. During the 28-day voyage, the Saildrone Surveyor sailed 2,250 nautical miles and mapped 6,400 square nautical miles of seafloor.
Using renewable wind and solar energy as the main source of energy, the Saildrone Surveyor is the only vehicle in the world capable of carrying out long-duration, unmanned ocean mapping operations. The valuable data you collect will help address issues affecting our world, such as climate change, marine renewable energy, natural resource management, and maritime safety.
Measuring 72 feet (22 m) long and weighing 14 tons, the Saildrone Surveyor carries a sophisticated suite of acoustic instruments, typically carried on large manned reconnaissance vessels. The Surveyor’s sensors analyze the water column by observing underwater ecosystems and map the seafloor in high resolution down to a depth of 23,000 feet (7,000 m).
|The Saildrone Surveyor, an autonomous research vehicle, makes a crossing from San Francisco to Hawaii|
The multibeam data from the Saildrone Surveyor has been calibrated and evaluated by an external team from the University of New Hampshire (UNH), which typically calibrates large government survey vessels. “The Surveyor data is of very high quality, as good as what we have seen on ships,” said Larry Mayer, director of the UNH Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM). “Due to the nature of the vehicle, which is powered by wind energy, it is very quiet, which makes it possible to make the very precise acoustic measurements necessary for mapping at these depths.”
The ocean covers more than 70% of the planet, but more than 80% remains uncharted or explored. The lack of exploration of the oceans is largely due to the high cost involved in accessing the oceans, which has traditionally been undertaken by large ships. These ships can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build, and they can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. The Saildrone Surveyor represents a paradigm shift in the cost of ocean access, performing the same work as a sounding vessel but at a fraction of the cost and carbon footprint.
“This successful maiden voyage is a revolution in our ability to understand our planet,” said Richard Jenkins, founder and CEO of Saildrone. “We have met the challenge of running reliable, long-range, high-capacity remote maritime operations. Marine sounding can now be carried out without large vessels or crew, completely changing the operational economics for our customers. Based on this achievement, I am excited to apply the Saildrone Surveyor technology to other markets that are typically reserved for large vessels, such as inland security and defense applications. The implications of having a low-carbon solution for these critical maritime missions are very significant. ” .
With this successful proof-of-concept journey, Saildrone, Inc. of California will now build a fleet of Surveyors to be manufactured in shipyards across the United States. Saildrone intends to map all of the Earth’s oceans for the next 10 years.
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Thus, the autonomous and unmanned Saildrone Surveyor will arrive in Hawaii after a groundbreaking inaugural voyage from San Francisco to Honolulu with the goal of conducting long-duration, unmanned ocean mapping operations.