Canadian USV manufacturer Saildrone has launched a 22-metre version of its uncrewed surface vehicles, known as saildrones.
Powered by wind and solar energy, saildrones are capable of missions of up to 12 months in the open ocean.
The latest and largest version is also the first in the Surveyor class of USVs, and carries sonar equipment capable of seafloor mapping down to 7,000 metres.
Called the Saildrone Surveyor, it presents a paradigm shift in enhanced seabed mapping, currently done with very large and expensive manned ships, the company said.
The Surveyor, uncrewed and powering its sensor suite by harvesting renewable energy, delivers an equivalent survey capability, but at a fraction of the cost and carbon footprint of a traditional survey ship.
“We are excited to see the launch of the Saildrone Surveyor,” said Alan Leonardi, director of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. “NOAA is supporting the development and testing of this new uncrewed system because we are confident it will expand the capability of our existing fleet of ships to help us accelerate in a cost-effective way our mission to map, characterize and explore our nation’s deep ocean territory, monitor valuable fisheries and other marine resources, and provide information to unleash the potential of our nation’s Blue Economy.”
In 2019, NOAA provided a three-year grant through the National Oceanographic Partnership Program to the University of New Hampshire, in partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and Saildrone, to integrate and test sensors on the Saildrone Surveyor for mapping the seafloor and revealing life in the water column.
Richard Jenkins, founder & CEO of Saildrone, also said:
“The launch of the Surveyor is a huge step up, not just for Saildrone’s data services but for the capabilities of uncrewed systems in our oceans. For the first time, a scalable solution now exists to map our planet within our lifetime, at an affordable cost.”
The Saildrone Surveyor leverages the same patented wind-powered technology as the 7-metre Saildrone Explorer.
Saildrone’s autonomous vehicles have covered over 500,000 nautical miles from the Arctic to the Antarctic. The Saildrone fleet has logged more than 10,000 days at sea in some of the most extreme weather conditions on the planet.