Navy League of the United States Recognizes Ocean Drone Technology with Annual Innovation Award

The award was presented to Saildrone Founder and CEO Richard Jenkins at the Sea Air Space conference, held April 4 – 6, 2022.

(April 5, 2022 – National Harbor, MD) – Saildrone’s founder and CEO, Richard Jenkins, was today awarded the Albert A. Michelson Award by the Navy League of the United States. The Albert A. Michelson Award honors a civilian scientist, technical innovator or group, or organization that has demonstrated scientific or technical achievement resulting in a significant improvement in the strength of our maritime forces or the enhancement of our industrial-technology base. Jenkins was presented with the award at the annual Sea Air Space Conference, making him only the sixth individual to receive the prestigious recognition.

Jenkins and his team at Saildrone made waves in the defense community in recent months, demonstrating that their turnkey Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) solutions are a force multiplier, enabling rapid and effective response from high-value manned assets. 

Richard Jenkins, left, receives the 2022 Albert A. Michelson Award from (left to right) Secretary of the Navy the Honorable Carlos Del Toro, Navy League National President Dave Reilly, and Navy League National CEO Mike Stevens.

In December 2021, the US Navy’s 5th Fleet began operating a group of Saildrone Explorers in the Red Sea off the coast of Bahrain and later in the Arabian Gulf off the coast of Jordan. Saildrone was then put through its paces at IMX, the largest maritime exercise held in the Middle East, including over 50 ships, 9,000 personnel, and 60 partner countries. 

Saildrone’s MDA data solution uses advanced machine learning (ML). Their proprietary ML model, which can automatically recognize and classify objects in real time, was trained on Saildrone’s unique data suite of labeled maritime images, containing millions of images captured every five seconds on missions over the past seven years. Saildrone’s masthead 360° optical camera system combined with the ML model running onboard GPU compute processors delivers real-time, visual detection of targets at sea, including “dark” vessels that may not be transmitting their position. 

“I am deeply honored to receive this award,” said Jenkins. “We have worked extremely hard over the years to develop this technology. It is fantastic to see it being deployed by the US Navy, and now also recognized by the Navy League of the United States. We are excited to be playing a key role in improving the strength of our maritime forces.”

Saildrone’s data solutions leverage their well-known Saildrone uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) to provide persistent eyes and ears on the water. Saildrone Explorers can stay on mission at sea for up to 365 days, continuously sending data back in real-time, without the need for support vessels or physical interactions.

“The Saildrone USV is an engineering marvel and the company that Richard has built around it is transforming how we think about accessing our world’s oceans. Saildrones are a paradigm shift in autonomous maritime capability,” said James F. Guerts, former assistant secretary of the Navy. 

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper speaking March 28 in an online discussion sponsored by the Washington think tank the Middle East Institute said using “artificial intelligence to map the waters… detecting when something is unusual—smuggling, illegal fishing, you name it—and then sending the information back to the command center. That process has allowed us to expand our maritime domain awareness two or three times.” According to the Navy League’s magazine, Seapower, Cooper also noted that with more nations using USVs, maritime domain awareness in the region could expand to 30 times the coverage.

Saildrone also helps significantly lower the high cost and carbon footprint usually associated with maritime defense. Powered primarily by wind and solar renewable energy, saildrones have a zero to very low operational carbon footprint and can be operationalized at a fraction of the cost of traditional approaches to collect maritime intelligence. As reported by Seapower, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper said for the price of one Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, he could buy or lease around 2,000 Saildrone USVs.

About Saildrone

Navigating an Ocean of Data. Any Sensor. Anytime. Anywhere.

Saildrone provides comprehensive turnkey data solutions for maritime security, ocean mapping, and ocean data. The company provides real-time access to critical data from any ocean on earth and uses proprietary software applications to transform that data into intelligence and actionable insights. Saildrone makes ocean intelligence cost-effective at scale by leveraging its fleet of the world’s most capable, proven, and trusted uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), powered by renewable wind and solar power with a minimal carbon footprint. Saildrone vehicles operate 24/7/365, without the need for a crewed support vehicle, and have sailed 750,000+ nautical miles from the Arctic to the Antarctic and spent 17,000+ days at sea in the harshest ocean conditions on the planet.


Susan Ryan
Vice President Marketing
Cell: (314) 914-5008