2017 US Arctic Survey

Explore Data Set

An Ecosystem Survey of the Changing US Arctic

In conjunction with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), three saildrones traversed Alaska’s inhospitable waters to the Bering and Chukchi Seas to track melting ice, measure carbon dioxide levels, and count fish, seals, and whales. The data collected from this mission can be used to inform how changes in the Arctic can affect other climate and weather systems and/or marine ecosystems.

Saildrone launched three vehicles from Dutch Harbor, AK in July 2017. Two vehicles journeyed  through the Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean for the first time, outfitted with a newly adapted system to measure CO2 concentrations.

“We want to understand how changes in the Arctic may affect large-scale climate and weather systems as well as ecosystems that support valuable fish stocks," said Jessica Cross, an oceanographer at NOAA Research’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), who is using saildrones to study how the Arctic Ocean is absorbing carbon dioxide.

The third USV surveyed more than 3,100 nautical miles in the Bering Sea counting walleye pollock, northern fur seals that prey on them, and the elusive North Pacific right whale. This work  built on research conducted during 2016, including a study of fur seal feeding rates. Carey Kuhn, ecologist with NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center, and her team will also attach video cameras on fur seals to record feeding and verify the species and sizes of fish that fur seals are eating.

“We are excited to be able to use the video to see the ocean from a fur seal’s point of view,” said Kuhn. “Critical information about fur seals is still lacking and using the video camera and unmanned sailing vehicle will help us better understand this declining population.”

About the Data Set


  • Time period: 7/17/2017 - 9/29/2017 (72 days)
  • Number of drones: 3
  • Resolution: 1 min.

Atmospheric data includes:

  • Air pressure
  • Air temperature
  • Relative humidity
  • Wind speed and direction

Oceanographic data includes:

  • Oxygen concentration
  • Chlorophyll concentration
  • Conductivity
  • Water temperature
  • Sea surface temperature
  • Salinity

Access method(s):


Hosted by NOAA

2019 Gulf Stream air-sea fluxes

In January 2019, a Saildrone USV was launched from Newport, Rhode Island, in collaboration with the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. The scientific objective of this campaign was to quantify air-sea heat and carbon exchange in the Gulf Stream while also assessing a saildrone as a potential platform to reduce uncertainties and build a mechanistic understanding of the key time/space scales and processes governing these exchanges in Western Boundary Current regions.

2018 Baja California Mission

In the summer of 2018, a Saildrone unmanned surface vehicle (USV) was launched in San Francisco to follow a course south along the US/Mexico coast toward Guadalupe Island. A coalition of 23 scientists involved in 17 projects tracked the saildrone across the highly variable California Current System with two main areas of focus: To assess the utility of Saildrone measurements for satellite sea surface temperature (SST) validation and model assimilation; and to study air-sea heat flux along dynamic frontal regions using Saildrone’s core payload of sensors and an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP).

2018 North American West Coast Survey

Fish stock assessments along the West Coast provide an essential view into fish populations and are integral to setting fishing rules and limits for the commercial fishing industry. In the summer and fall of 2018, five saildrones set off in a partnership with NOAA to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the West Coast assessment. This was the first integrated USV and ship survey of the North American West Coast.