Unmanned Boats Are Travelling the World to Collect Data

To help combat climate change, unmanned boats, called “saildrones” are travelling from the Arctic to the equator to gather data.

Each 20-foot-high carbon fibre sail has 16 sensors that will test currents, water temperature, carbon dioxide, and acidity.

Saildrones are also capable of measuring chlorophyll-a concentration, dissolved coloured organic matter, salinity, magnetic field strength, atmospheric parameters, and oceanic parameters.

The vessels are built to continue on a set path without a need for constant monitoring. As the boat sails at 3-5 miles per hour, it takes continuous measurements and sends notices to on-shore engineers of potential dangers via satellite.

The drones are currently being operated for five percent of the cost of a manned vessel, which is what is commonly used for climate related research. By using unmanned boats, cost-effective real time data is easily transmitted back to shore and can be delivered to anyone at any time.

Saildrones have logged more than a 100,000 nautical miles in the last five years and have worked with the U.S National Oceanic, Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA.

Earlier this year, two saildrones embarked on a six-month journey to the equator to study the weather phenomenon, El Nino. Two more were sent towards the Arctic Ocean to study and track melting ice and count seals, whales, and fish.

The ultimate goal of saildrones is to bring insight to important issues such as climate change, fish population, and ocean acidification.

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