A fully equipped Saildrone carries a powerhouse of oceanographic and atmospheric sensors, with an ability to get to any part of the world's oceans and perform adaptive sampling. Such capabilities are unrivaled by any other unmanned platform.
To test these 'climate data' capabilities, Saildrone has embarked on a 3 year pilot with NOAA in the equatorial pacific.
Monitoring the Equatorial Oceans is key to understanding long range weather forecasting. However " nearly half of the moored buoys in the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array have failed in the past two years, crippling an early warning system for the warming and cooling events in the eastern equatorial Pacific, known respectively as El Niño and La Niña. Scientists are now collecting data from just 40% of the array." (Nature, Jan 2014)
As a first mission in the Pacific pilot, Saildrone recently sailed to several of the remaining active buoys in the current TAO/TRITON array, to test transit times to the array and complete measurement comparisons. Saildrone #127 took 45 days from San Francisco to reach the array at 8 degrees North. Buoys measurements were successfully duplicated at buoys 2N and 2S. We then continued to transit South to explore the Southern Pacific conditions.
The vehicle travelled 7,000 nautical miles in 120 days.
Over time Saildrone aims to become a major component of next generation tropical observation arrays, further enhancing their current capabilities by adding new type of sensors measuring heat flux, carbon absorption and biochemistry and providing adaptive sampling capabilities.