Saildrone Surveyor completes maiden voyage from San Francisco to Hawaii with data collection supported by The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project
Saildrone’s flagship autonomous, uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) – the Saildrone Surveyor – arrived in Hawaii after a groundbreaking 2,250-nautical mile maiden voyage from San Francisco to Honolulu last month. The collection of new seafloor mapping data during the Hawaii transit was partially funded by the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE prize money, won by the GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team in 2019. During the 28-day voyage, the Saildrone Surveyor mapped 6,400 square nautical miles of seafloor.
Using renewable wind and solar energy as its primary power source, the Saildrone Surveyor is the only vehicle in the world capable of long-endurance, uncrewed ocean mapping operations. The vehicle is optimised for deep-ocean mapping, and the data collected will play a vital role in tackling current issues facing the planet, including climate change. It will also contribute to Seabed 2030’s mission of a complete map of the seafloor by 2030.
Seabed 2030 is a collaborative project between The Nippon Foundation and GEBCO to inspire the complete mapping of the world’s ocean by 2030, and to compile all bathymetric data into the freely available GEBCO Ocean Map. GEBCO is a joint project of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), and is the only organisation with a mandate to map the entire ocean floor.
Saildrone, based in Alameda, CA, provides high-resolution scientific ocean measurement, ocean mapping, and maritime domain awareness data collected by its fleet of the world’s most capable, proven, and trusted uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), known as saildrones. Predominantly powered by wind and solar energy, each vehicle can stay at sea for up to 12 months, transmitting real-time data via satellite from some of the most remote areas on the planet.
Working in collaboration with NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration, multibeam data from the Saildrone Surveyor has been calibrated and assessed by an external team from the University of New Hampshire (UNH). Commenting on the “high quality” data acquired by the vehicle, Larry Mayer, co-Head of Seabed 2030’s Arctic and North Pacific Ocean Regional Center and Director for the UNH Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping said: “Due to the wind-powered nature of the vehicle, it is very quiet, and this enables the very accurate acoustic measurements needed to map to these depths.”
Seabed 2030 Project Director Jamie McMichael-Phillips commented: “Autonomous technologies lower the carbon footprint of [obtaining a map of the oceans], using less fuel and fewer resources.
“We’re hugely excited about what the Saildrone Surveyor is going to deliver for Seabed 2030.”
Brian Connon, Vice-President of Ocean Mapping at Saildrone said: “We’re really excited about the potential of the Surveyor to help address the big gaps that exist in ocean mapping.” Currently 20.6 per cent of the seafloor has been mapped to modern standards.
Following this successful proof of concept voyage, Saildrone will build a fleet of Surveyors, manufactured at US shipyards, to drive forward the goal of mapping Earth’s oceans in the next 10 years.