The winners of the first two Saildrone Awards demonstrated innovative use cases for autonomous technology to address big questions related to ocean physics and ecology and air-sea heat and carbon exchange. Saildrone established the annual award to support revolutionary new approaches to ocean science and encourage creative use of its technology. Winners are offered 30 days of ocean data collection, equivalent to $1 million worth of research ship time, via Saildrone unmanned surface vehicle (USV).
Using Saildrone Autonomous In Situ Data for Satellite Validation and Research Into Upper Ocean Physics and Ecology
The first-ever Saildrone Award was presented in 2017 to a coalition of 20 scientists led by Dr. Chelle Gentemann of Earth & Space Research. The project, which took place April – June 2018, focused on frontal studies in the California current. Offshore of California, very cold water mixes with warm water, which creates sharp gradients. The Saildrone in situ platform can accurately map these gradients, but a satellite cannot.
The original 30-day mission was doubled to 60 days by a generous grant from The Schmidt Family Foundation. The Saildrone USV sailed down along the US/Mexico coast from San Francisco to Guadalupe Island and back. The route was selected to optimize science and validation objectives. The USV lingered at eight NOAA buoys to provide triple validation of observations—buoy, satellite, and USV. The saildrone repeat sampled some fine frontal features to examine heat exchange across the air-sea interface at Guadalupe Island and near San Francisco.
The Saildrone USV successfully completed the mission; the research team has evaluated the data and is beginning analysis of the results. The data set is now available at NASA JPL’s PO.DAAC website.
Wintertime Air-Sea Heat and Carbon Exchange in the Gulf Stream Observed with an Autonomous Wind-powered Surface Vehicle
Western boundary currents present tremendous challenges to observation that are not easily addressed with traditional methods because of the short space and time scales that characterize their variability, which means that their contribution to the global ocean carbon budget has not yet been well quantified. Saildrone provides a platform capable of long-endurance, high-speed, accurate lower atmosphere, and surface ocean measurements.
Dr. Palter and her team will measure wintertime surface heat and CO2 fluxes across the Gulf Stream with a Saildrone USV. The mission is expected to provide the most detailed data to date on the wintertime evolution of CO2 in the Gulf Stream from Cape Hatteras, NC, to a position approximately 1,000 kilometers’ offshore.
This project addresses a key scientific question with immense societal value: How to quantify ocean carbon sink in a time of global change. The western boundary currents are frontier regions for such quantification. Dr. Palter hopes that quantifying CO2 uptake and understanding its key controls in the Gulf Stream will provide a path forward to help close the global carbon budget. The resulting data set from this mission is available on the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet).
Apply for a Saildrone Award
Scientists interested in submitting an initial proposal for data collection using a Saildrone USV may apply through Saildrone’s interactive application portal. Finalists will be asked to submit a detailed mission plan for review by a panel of judges.
Read more about the 2017 and 2018 Saildrone Award winners or submit an initial proposal for a Saildrone Award at saildrone.com/award.
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Saildrone is a US business that designs, manufactures, and operates a fleet of the world’s most capable, proven, and trusted uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs). Predominantly powered by wind and solar, Saildrone USVs have a minimal carbon footprint. They are equipped with advanced sensors and machine learning technology to deliver critical data and intelligence from any ocean at any time of year. Solutions include maritime domain awareness, ocean data, and ocean mapping. Saildrone operations and data collection services are encrypted and secure.