For the first time, a significant payload (100kg) can be transported from a conventional dock, to any specified part of the world's oceans, at speeds comparable to that of ships, but at a fraction of the cost. The payload can be deployed or carried aboard the Saildrone, sampling as it goes and sending data back to base via satellite.
One of the big strengths of the Saildrone design is that it is able to sail in shallow waters and through marine debris such as kelp and discarded nets, etc. This enables the Saildrone to go where other technologies can not. Ships, gliders and drifters all try to operate in deep water, where there is less danger and less chance of entanglement. Saildrone's sleek and slippery design sheds weed and the precise Global positioning system enables it to navigate in confined spaces and in depths as shallow as 7ft.
In association with Barbara Block's team at Stanford University, we will be deploying a shark tracking Saildrone off the California coast and Pacific ocean.
The Global Tagging of Pelagic Predators (GTOPP) program is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration among biologists, engineers, computer scientists and educators, which will allow users to view and interact with animal tracking data, as well as oceanographic datasets, to marine life observation. By combining data from a diverse number of highly migratory species, and overlaying them with oceanographic data, it is possible to glimpse the processes that influence how open ocean ecosystems work.
During 2014, a Saildrone, equipped with an acoustic receiver and a variety of scientific instruments will deployed off the coast of California to track sharks and study the water column where sharks are detected. Encounters with a tagged predator will be sent via satellite in real time to the internet and the GTOPP program.
Ships, weather buoy's and drifters are a vital part of understanding climate change and tsunami warning, etc. However, they are very expensive to deploy and take regular servicing. As the budgets get cut for science ships around the world, organizations are struggling to maintain buoy networks or fund the ship deployments to get these crucial measurements.
In association with NOAA / PMEL, we will be outfitting two saildrone's with a comprehensive suite of scientific instruments, then running some very specific trials to evaluate the technology. The objective is to gather some key atmospheric and sub surface measurements and verify that these are of an accuracy required for scientific research and climate studies.
If successful, Saildrone would revolutionize the cost of remote ocean measurements and could have a profound effect on the amount of data recovered and hence our understanding of climate change.
The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is investigating the impacts of the oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico after the Deep Water Horizon disaster in April 2010. Knowledge accrued will be applied to restoration and to improving the long-term environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico.
One of the research initiatives funded by the GOMRI is ECOGIG - Ecosystem Impacts of Oil & Gas Inputs to the Gulf. ECOGIG's mission is to understand the environmental signatures and impacts of natural seepage versus that of abrupt, large hydrocarbon inputs on coupled benthic-pelagic processes in deepwater ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico, and to chart the long-term effects and mechanisms of ecosystem recovery from the 2010 Macondo well blowout.
The Saildrone team is collaborating with Ian MacDonald and Ajit Subramamiam from ECOGIG to test a Saildrone platform in the Gulf of Mexico during summer 2014.
The plan is to deploy the Saildrone around a natural seep area and then in control areas that lack the natural surface slicks produced by the seep, while measuring a number of variables, above and below the surface. The objective is to test hypotheses regarding enhanced phytoplankton biomass in areas influenced by surface slicks of oil from the natural seeps. SailDrone's measurements will be augmented by satellite remote sensing observations obtained through cooperation with NOAA NESDIS and by aerial surveillance from the On Wings of Care airplane.
Saildrone will be using some incredibly sensitive new technology to detect and track surface films, then report the slicks position and size back to base in real time via Satellite link. If successful, this will be a ground breaking mission, not only for providing data from within these illusive slicks, but also opening up many applications in the oil and gas industry for environmental monitoring of operations.
The Saildrone platform provides some unique opportunities for persistent surveillance and monitoring in the Oceans and waterways. With a camera mounted at the top of the 20 foot tall mast, the vehicle has a good field of view, which when combined with other vessel detection techniques, such as radar, AIS and acoustic technology, could provide very valuable information for the policing of marine sanctuaries and protected areas.