Carbon Impact Report 2022: 99% Avoided Emissions

Saildrone’s first annual Carbon Impact Report highlights significant carbon emissions avoided by using USVs for maritime data collection—143% of the company’s own total emissions.

Oceans cover 72% of the planet’s surface and play an important role in regulating climate, sustaining life, and fostering interconnected ecosystems—yet we know very little about them. The Blue Economy is valued at $1.5 trillion annually, but sustainable, effective long-term management requires regular and accurate measurements of essential ocean variables. Collecting this critical data is traditionally expensive, dangerous, and carbon-intensive. 

Saildrone is proud to release its first annual Carbon Impact Report, a detailed assessment of our carbon emissions and the emissions avoided by employing Saildrone’s innovative uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) for maritime data collection.

How Saildrone calculates carbon impact

Saildrone’s approach to assessing our carbon impact requires two separate initiatives, which allows us to focus on both “doing less harm” by mitigating our operational emissions and “doing more good” by expanding the adoption of Saildrone technology to avoid emissions generated by existing solutions for ocean data collection.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol framework
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol framework is divided into three parts or “scopes.” Illustration: EcoAct.

To calculate carbon emissions, Saildrone partnered with EcoAct, an international sustainability consultancy and project developer with nearly 20 years of experience in corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting and comprehensive decarbonization strategies. Saildrone followed the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a framework divided into three areas: 

  • Scope 1 Direct emissions from owned and operated assets; 
  • Scope 2 Indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heat, or cooling;
  • Scope 3 Indirect emissions by other entities as a result of the company’s activities.
Saildrone’s 2022 emissions by solution area and use case.
Saildrone’s 2022 emissions by solution area and use case.

To calculate avoided emissions, Saildrone partnered with Rightship, the world’s leading environmental, social, and governance (ESG)-focused digital maritime platform. Using the guidance established in 2023 by the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) for quantifying avoided emissions, Saildrone missions were separated into solution areas and use cases to identify the most likely alternative technology scenario that would have occurred in the absence of Saildrone USVs.

The results

During 2022 missions combined, Saildrone USVs generated only 10 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). The total emissions that would have been generated by the reference vessels amounted to 8,299 tCO2e. This means that, operationally, Saildrone produced only 0.1% of the emissions that would have been produced by existing vessels. 

In other words, Saildrone avoided 99.9% of the carbon that would have been produced by traditional maritime solutions, across all ocean research, seafloor mapping, and maritime defense missions. That is equal to 143% of its own total emissions. This ratio clearly demonstrates the role Saildrone solutions play in progressing to a low-carbon maritime future.

Graphic showing Saildrone emissions compared to ship emissions

“Ocean access and exploration is critical to the health of our planet and the expansion of the Blue Economy, but until now, collecting that data has been very fossil-fuel intensive. Reducing the carbon footprint of maritime data collection has been part of our core mission from the beginning, so it is very satisfying to now see that goal validated in our operational data,” said Saildrone founder and CEO Richard Jenkins. 

What’s next?

Saildrone’s rapid growth trajectory is certain to have an impact on our carbon footprint. In 2022, missions were performed predominantly with zero-carbon Saildrone Explorer-class USVs. In April 2023, Saildrone announced the mid-size Voyager and, in early 2024, launched the first production Surveyor. These larger-class USVs also burn small amounts of diesel fuel, which is expected to slightly increase operational emissions. However, as fleet operations expand, Saildrone’s avoided emissions are expected to increase as well.

Saildrone aims to continue avoiding >95% of operational carbon emissions in future years and is committed to actively managing carbon impact so that we continue avoiding greater than 100% of our total carbon footprint.

“As we grow our fleet in support of our science, commercial, and defense customers, so too do we grow the amount of carbon we offset. It is an honor to be a part of the long-term carbon solution,” said Jenkins.

Read the full report here.


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