ARLINGTON, Virginia – Saildrone is set to conduct an Arctic research mission for the seventh year in a row with its wind and solar powered unmanned unmanned surface vessels (USVs). The company conducts the missions with six of its smaller USVs, the 23-foot-long Explorer.
The six USVs are launched from Dutch Harbor, a port in the Aleutian Islands. Four will collect data in the Bering Sea and two will collect data in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean.
The trips are made to collect atmospheric, oceanographic and bathymetric data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA. The sensors aboard the Saildrones will collect data on carbon dioxide dissolved in the water; bathymetry; climate and weather conditions – including heat, radiation, carbon and atmospheric variables; wind speed and direction; and radiation and temperatures.
“Each year we have increased our capabilities,” said Rich Jenkins, CEO of Saildrone, who noted that the Explorer USVs have “incredible reliability”.
For maritime domain knowledge, explorers are also equipped with 360 degree cameras that record visual information 24/7 using machine learning algorithms to detect anomalies, such as a ship. passing, imaging every five seconds.
“We have amassed hundreds of millions of images from the open ocean from the Arctic to the Southern Ocean,” Jenkins said. “We train the machine learning model to visually recognize things” such as ships, icebergs, birds, whales, dolphins, etc.
The data on the ships can be merged with the data of the automatic information system for a better knowledge of the maritime domain. Saildrone leases the services of commercial Iridium satellites for the transmission of data between a USV and a ground station.