Science

Innovative solutions for autonomous in situ ocean observations

Saildrone’s global fleet of autonomous vehicles provides cost-effective solutions for in situ data collection in the most remote regions of the ocean and in the harshest conditions.

Saildrone unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) are designed to sail the world’s oceans equipped with a payload of science sensors to collect in situ measurements of the essential ocean variables (EOVs) and essential climate variables (ECVs) necessary to address air-sea exchanges of heat and gas, physical oceanography objectives, and fisheries and marine mammal surveys and research. The Saildrone platform is a scientific tool to gather data of the highest quality, fit for purpose, with a clear and robust data chain, from sensor calibration to raw observations, processing, and final distribution.

The standard Saildrone sensor suite measures more than a dozen variables above and below the sea surface, including temperature (air and sea), humidity, pressure, radiation, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll-a, and salinity, as well as wind speed and direction and wave height and period. Optionally, saildrones can also be equipped with an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) to measure ocean current vectors at multiple depths, an ASVCO2 sensor to measure the partial pressure of carbon dioxide, or an echo sounder for animal tracking and fisheries surveys. Initial quality control, drift, calibration, and platform effects are carefully managed to ensure that each sensor and essential variable is properly understood, and calibration and validation are tracked during the hardware and software design cycles.

Autonomous fit-for-purpose solutions

Innovative technology solutions for autonomous temporal and spatial data acquisition. Saildrone USVs are multipurpose vehicles capable of collecting data for a variety of mission objectives at the same time.

Fisheries – Observe fish stock abundance for sustainable fisheries management; marine mammal and crustacean tracking for research objectives or to determine protected areas.

Metocean data collection – Atmospheric measurements, sea surface temperature, air-sea heat fluxes to improve climate models and weather prediction.

Ecosystem monitoring – Measuring acoustic backscatter, carbon absorption, salinity, and chlorophyll for physical oceanography.

Satellite calibration/validation – Providing in situ data for satellite calibration and validation studies and algorithm development.

Gen 6 Saildrone sensor suite

Saildrone – 7 m SUSV

The 7 m saildrone is a small unmanned surface vehicle (SUSV) designed to carry a payload of sensors to collect data above and below the sea surface. A 5 m wing provides wind power for forward propulsion and solar panels power onboard science and navigation instruments. Saildrones equipped for single-beam or multibeam bathymetry carry an echo sounder in addition to the standard sensor suite. They are often partnered with a second SUSV equipped with a SVP.

Specialized Sensor Configurations

Fisheries acoustics: EK80 echo sounder + optional VEMCO receiver
Gas exchange: ASVCO2
Air-sea fluxes (heat): ADCP + optional radiometers/thermistor chain
Physical oceanography: ADCP + optional  profiling CTD winch

Why Saildrone?

  • Cost-effective data collection in any ocean and in any weather conditions
  • Multipurpose vehicles meet a variety of research objectives at the same time
  • 24/7 autonomous operations monitored by staffed remote bridge
  • Near-real-time data transmission via satellite communications
  • Autonomous transit to survey area
  • Long-distance/long-term mission durations up to 365 days without returning to port for maintenance or refueling
  • Reduced fuel consumption and carbon footprint
  • Data interoperability
  • COLREGS compliant

Customize Your Science Mission

Interested in exploring how autonomous technologies can help you achieve your ocean data collecting objectives?

Tell us about your mission needs and get started planning your custom solution.

Latest News

Saildrone case studies and related science articles

view all
Science

Saildrone USVs enabled the Alaska Fisheries Science Center to perform the 2020 Alaska pollock survey during a time of considerable environmental and civic uncertainty.

Read More
Missions

Two autonomous wind-powered vehicles sailed from Cabo Verde to Trieste, Italy, demonstrating how fit-for-purpose technology can be used to increase ocean observation.

Read More
Missions

Two saildrones have been collecting data about air-sea interactions in a productive region of the western Tropical Atlantic on behalf of NOAA.

Read More