Getting Started with NetCDF

A quick guide to using visualizing Saildrone data sets using the Network Common Data Form format. Follow the guidelines below or contact us with questions.

How To Visualize a NetCDF-formatted Saildrone Data Set

Saildrone Data Sets are distributed in the Network Common Data Form format, more commonly known as NetCDF. This format, developed by UniData is a set of software libraries and self-describing, machine-independent data formats that support the creation, access, and sharing of array-oriented scientific data. If you have never used NetCDF files before, here are a few tips to get you started.

Visualize a variable

To get started, follow the instructions below:


Download a sample Saildrone NetCDF data set (*.nc file hosted by NASA)


Download a NetCDF viewer, such as Panoply (or any alternative)


Open the NetCDF file using Panoply and select a variable to visualize
Example: "UWND_MEAN"  is the mean east-west wind speed


Plot the selected variable by selecting Create Plot and the default Create a Georeferenced Trajectory-Feature Type


You should see the visualization below (try zooming in and out).

Explore Saildrone Data Sets

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.

Getting Started

Saildrone offers fully managed mission services, collecting the data you require at a fixed daily rate, and tailored data packages to meet any need.

Tell us about your ocean data needs and we’ll help you get started.

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