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article imageSelf-sailing drones set to explore the Southern Ocean

By Karen Graham     Jan 25, 2018 in Technology
CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) has announced a partnership with San Francisco-based ocean technology start-up, Saildrone, to radically improve measurement and monitoring in Australian waters and the Southern Ocean.
CSIRO and Saildrone have been in a research partnership for five years, and the culmination of that research will see the deployment of state-of-the-art unmanned ocean surface vehicles, Saildrones, for the first time in Australian waters.
The Saildrone USVs are a revolution in ocean measuring with applications across climate and environmental monitoring, fisheries research and stock assessments, as well as marine response to emergencies. They are equipped with a powerhouse of ocean chemistry, meteorological and marine acoustic sensors.
The Saildrones are propelled by the wind, and their electronics are powered by the sun – allowing them to remain at sea for up to 12 months at a time, uploading collected data along the way. They are equipped with automatic identification systems (AIS) and ship avoidance systems and can operate autonomously or be remotely controlled via a satellite connection from anywhere in the world.
Data collection across the world's oceans
The ocean is not only home to a vast underwater marine ecosystem, but it plays a pivotal role in our climate and weather and as a food source for millions of people. The oceans absorb almost 90 percent of heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions and take up about 25 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere each year,
Ocean observation and data collection have become increasingly important, not only in monitoring our fisheries to maintain a sustainable marine ecosystem but in improving our medium to long-term forecasts of weather and climate. For Australia, monitoring and collecting data regularly around the country's vast expanse of oceans is a formidable task.
This is why the use of autonomous monitoring systems is needed. To that end, CSIRO has invested in the development of autonomous technologies for ocean monitoring, as well as both the hardware and software to extend the global range of the observations.
Saildrone ready for launch.
Saildrone ready for launch.
Sensors have improved to the point where they can capture data over a wide range of variables and using real-time data uplinks to satellites can enhance the response time to complex and immediate problems such as measuring the extent and impacts of marine heatwaves or oil spills.
CSIRO Research Group Leader Andreas Marouchos said the organization will see a fleet of three Saildrones deployed from the CSIRO in Hobart. “This research partnership comes at a critical time for the marine environment, and at a time when technological innovation in the marine sector is booming,” Marouchos said.
More about Saildrone, Csiro, Southern Ocean, Monitoring, Technology
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