National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2016

The use of Saildrones to examine spring conditions in the Bering Sea: Vehicle specification and mission performance

Meinig, C., R. Jenkins, N. Lawrence-Slavas, and H. Tabisola

In Oceans 2015 MTS/IEEE, Marine Technology Society and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Washington, DC, 19–22 October 2015, doi: 10.23919/OCEANS.2015.7404348 (2015)

During recent decades the US Arctic is experiencing a rapid loss of sea ice and subsequently increasingly warmer water temperatures. To better study this economically and culturally important marine ecosystem and the changes that are occurring, the use of new technologies is being explored to supplement traditional ship, satellite and mooring based data collection techniques. Unmanned surface vehicles (USV) are a rapidly advancing technology that has the potential to meet the requirement for long duration and economical scientific data collection with the ability for real-time data and adaptive sampling. In 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (NOAA-PMEL), the University of Washington (UW) and Saildrone Inc. (Alameda, California) explored the use of a novel USV technology in the Bering Sea and Norton Sound. Two Saildrones, wind and solar powered unmanned surface vehicles that can be used for extended research missions in challenging environments, were equipped with a suite of meteorological and oceanographic sensors. During the >3 month mission, the vehicles each traveled over 4100 nm, successfully completing several scientific survey assignments. This mission demonstrated the capability of the Saildrone vehicle to be launched from a dock to conduct autonomous and adaptive oceanographic research in a harsh, high-latitude environment.

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