The Saildrone is an autonomous sailing drone, currently being explored by the OCS project as a tool to provide high quality oceanic and atmospheric observations. With a speed through the water of 2-8kts, they have a range of more than 16,000 nautical miles, and endurance of up to 12 months. Saildrones can do adaptive sampling like research ships, but at a fraction of the price.
For additional photos, please check our Saildrone Gallery.
Various data delivery options exist on our Data Access webpage.
OCS Saildrone Missions
TPOS 2017 Mission: September 1, 2017 - May 18, 2018
TPOS 2018 Mission: October 3, 2018 - February 2019
Mission 2 was initiated with the launch of 4 Saildrone out of Hawaii in October 2018.
TPOS 2019 Mission: June 8, 2019 - December 8, 2019
Mission 3 also had four Saildrone launched from Hawaii, on June 8, 2019, initiating the third TPOS mission.
TPOS 2021 Mission: July 23, 2021 - present
Mission 4 launched on July 23, 2021, with two Saildrone departing San Francisco Bay, California, on a mission to the Eastern Tropical Pacific hurricane genesis region and equator at 110°W.
Other PMEL Saildrone Missions
ITAE 2018: June 30 - October 6, 2018
ITAE 2017: July 16 - September 29, 2017
ITAE 2016: May 23 - September 3, 2016
ITAE 2015: April 23 - July 28, 2015
PMEL began a partnership with Saildrone, Inc. in 2014, under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. The partnership aimed to develop the unmanned surface vehicles to collect high quality oceanic and atmospheric observations.
In addition to the vehicles themselves, Saildrone, Inc. provides engineering expertise in vehicle design, software, electronics, and operations. PMEL provides engineering expertise on sensors, sensor sampling schemes, telemetry protocols, and access to calibration equipment and facilities.
Vehicles being assembled at Saildrone, Inc. (Photo credit Saildrone, Inc.)
The OCS group has been working together with PMEL engineers and Saildrone, Inc. since mid-2016. The OCS goal was to install sensors on the drones with equivalent or better quality than those currently used on Tropical Atmosphere and Ocean (TAO) buoys for air-sea flux measurements. New additions made to the Saildrones also included a 300-kHz Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler for upper ocean current measurements, and a suite of biogeochemical sensors.
Refer to the Technical Notes page for documentation of the OCS / Saildrone development efforts.