Marine

Self-sailing drones set to explore the Southern Ocean

Saildrones being tested at their home city of San Francisco
Saildrones being tested at their home city of San Francisco
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CSIRO team members with a Saildrone
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CSIRO team members with a Saildrone
The Saildrones themselves are propelled by the wind, and their electronics are powered by the sun
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The Saildrones themselves are propelled by the wind, and their electronics are powered by the sun
Saildrones being tested at their home city of San Francisco
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Saildrones being tested at their home city of San Francisco

Australian research group CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) will be using aquatic drones to explore the Southern Ocean. The government agency has announced a partnership with San Francisco-based Saildrone, and will be utilizing three of the startup's unmanned vehicles for the next five years.

The Saildrones themselves are propelled by the wind, and their electronics are powered by the sun – this allows them to remain at sea for up to 12 months at a time, uploading collected data along the way.

Equipped with both automatic identification systems and ship avoidance systems, they can operate autonomously or be remotely controlled via a satellite connection from anywhere in the world. In this way, they're not unlike Liquid Robotics' Wave Gliders.

The CSIRO Saildrones will be based out of the city of Hobart.

CSIRO team members with a Saildrone
CSIRO team members with a Saildrone

Along with their existing marine and atmospheric sensors, they will also be equipped with sensors designed to measure ocean carbon, and to provide biomass estimates in the water column.

"Saildrones are long-range research platforms that can be sent to remote locations for an extended period of time, delivering real-time data back to scientists that was previously impossible to collect," says CSIRO Research Group Leader, Andreas Marouchos.

Sources: CSIRO, Saildrone

8 comments
0xFFFF
What happens when the ocean says 'No' and one of these things capsizes?
Reason
Fantastic concept. Worth following the CSIRO collaboration.
ikarus342000
A nice gimmick. We already have these automatic "water robots". We can do very good flow analyzes, temperature measurements etc via satellites. The huge plastic particle content is also researched. So what should it be? Playing around with robots is nice but a solution for this is what we need now. I hope you leave the link in the comment: https://www.yahoo.com/news/m/772cbf51-9894-304d-afd5-5170392236c8/ss_fisherman-makes-horrific-find.html
F. Tuijn
@ 0xFFFF I suppose the craft has a way of measuring how far the mast is from the vertical. Such sensors are built into every smart phone. It can then move the sail's rudder into the neutral position and remove the capsizing force. If it is too slow for that it will still return to a healthy position after the wind gust ends: look at its shape.
alan c
OxFFFF Just like any large model yacht it will have a lead ballast keel and will pop back up after a capsize.
bullfrog84
Great! Now how soon can we strap filtration systems on these things and have them running routes to pick up and drop off all the plastic we've dumped into the ocean?
highlandboy
90 ft waves, some of the worlds greatest winds (no land masses to slow the wind as it goes round the globe), risk of ice burgs, Iceing conditions that freeze control surfaces. I think 5 years is an optimistic estimate.
Nik
Small versions would make smashing toys for kids to play with on the summer beaching holidays.