Australian “saildrone” fleet launches in Hobart

A fleet of wind and solar-powered autonomous vehicles was unveiled in Hobart today, and will set off on a mission to capture ocean data before Easter.

Known as “saildrones”, the high-tech, unmanned vehicles will be at sea for up to twelve months and are an element of a government- and industry-funded research portfolio.

Their mission is to measure and monitor sea-surface temperature, salinity, ocean carbon, and biota – helping to paint a more detailed picture of the ocean off the Gippsland coast in Victoria.

The research will see the saildrones deployed as part of research to test and validate technologies used for future carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects.

A team of technicians has spent the last week preparing the saildrones for their maiden voyage in Australian waters.

Saildrones are remotely controlled and their systems can be accessed from anywhere in the world using an iPhone.

This means they can be reprogrammed to collect different types of data quickly instead of coming back to shore to change over equipment or sensors.

Whilst two saildrones will collect data in the Gippsland Basin that will inform methods for monitoring future CCS sites, the vehicles can also be deployed to future studies in hard to reach places, like the Southern Ocean, where climate and ocean data can be collected.

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