A fleet of unmanned autonomous sailing drones will be launched from Hobart to monitor the treacherous Southern Ocean. The drones will collect data on temperature, salinity, and ocean carbon levels, to provide estimates of biomass in the water column below. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have commissioned vessels from the drones, and the organisation have been working together with Saildrone for five years.
The USVs (unmanned science vehicles) are launched and retrieved from a dock, and navigate to a predetermined destination using wind power, travelling at an average speed of 3 to 5 knots.
Each drone can then hold its position or perform set courses to survey an area, and can be at sea for up to a year at a time. Data is transmitted back to shore via satellite and delivered to researchers via Saildrone’s API.
The ability to quickly re-task the drones remotely means CSIRO can deploy them to monitor difficult to predict natural events like marine heat waves or toxic algal blooms that in the past would have required extensive planning and expense for a ship and crew.
“We’re also equipping the systems with a scientific echo sounder which will insonify the water column, basically ping the water column with an acoustic pulse which allows us to look at the biota, the fish, the critters in the water column as well as potential bubble seeps coming from the ocean floor,” he added.