The Australian research group CSIRO is going to use floating drones to study the Southern Ocean (the southern parts of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans surrounding Antarctica). The government agency announced a partnership with Saildrone from San Francisco, which will provide three unmanned ships for the next 5 years.
Drones themselves are driven by wind, and their electronics are powered by solar panels, which allows them to stay at sea all year round, collecting scientific information.
The devices are equipped with systems for automatic identification and prevention of collisions with ships. They can operate autonomously or be controlled remotely via satellite communication anywhere in the World Ocean.
Drones will be based in the city of Hobart. Along with existing marine and atmospheric sensors, they will also be equipped with sensors that measure the level of carbon in the ocean and biomass in the water column. The head of the CSIRO research team Andreas Maroucios assessed the value of the unique experiment so:
“These drones are several promising research platforms that can be sent to remote locations of the World Ocean for a long time to collect and transmit to us the collected information in real time, which was previously impossible.”
This is not the first project of a research unmanned ship. Previously, we wrote about Solar Voyager – a self-contained solar powered boat that was supposed to cross the Atlantic. But the story, unfortunately, ended unsuccessfully.