Saildrone USVs Complete Strait of Gibraltar Passage

Two Saildrone unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) have recently completed the first autonomous passage of the Strait of Gibraltar.

SD 1030 and SD 1053 were escorted by a patrol boat from the Spanish Armada’s Instituto Hidrográfico de la Marina (IHM) and a research vessel from the University of Cadiz throughout the nine-hour passage.

The saildrones were deployed from a facility in the Canary Islands operated by the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands (PLOCAN) on a six-month mission to survey eddies and air-sea carbon fluxes and perform cross-calibrations with European Research Infrastructure (RI) sites in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.

I first sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar when I was 17, on a sailboat, after crossing the Atlantic from Bermuda. I remember it well, complex currents, choppy seas, and an incredibly busy shipping lane, which took the entire crew’s attention to navigate safely. I could not have imagined then, that 26 years later, we would be sending unmanned autonomous vehicles through that same piece of water, actively supervised from a control center 5,000 miles away in California,” said Saildrone founder and CEO Richard Jenkins.

“This is another significant accomplishment for the Saildrone fleet and demonstrates our vehicles are just as comfortable in the ice of the Arctic, the huge storms of the Southern Ocean, or one of the most confined and busy shipping lanes in the world. We are thrilled to have achieved this milestone and to move on to the next stage of the mission, our first sailing in the Mediterranean. I’d like to thank the local authorities, the PLOCAN staff, and the University of Cadiz for their assistance with logistical support and escorting the vehicles through the strait,” added Jenkins.

Having entered the Mediterranean, the two saildrones will continue their mission, heading northeast to study currents off the coast of Spain and the Balearic Islands followed by a study of air-sea carbon fluxes along the Nice-Calvi line. The mission is expected to conclude in Trieste, Italy, in the Adriatic Sea.

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