Australian research group CSIRO is going to use floating drones to study the Southern Ocean (the southern Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans surrounding Antarctica). The government agency announced a partnership with San Francisco-based Saildrone to provide three unmanned vessels over the next 5 years.
The drones are themselves propelled by the wind, and their electronics are powered by solar panels, which allows them to be at sea all year round, collecting scientific information.
The vehicles are equipped with automatic identification and collision avoidance systems. They can work autonomously or be controlled remotely via satellite communications anywhere in the oceans.
The 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 ocean carbon and biomass in the water column. The head of the CSIRO research group, Andreas Marouchos, appreciated the significance of the unique experiment:
"These drones represent several promising research platforms that can be sent to remote locations in the oceans for a long time to collect and transmit the collected information to us in real time, which was previously impossible."
This is not the first project of an unmanned research vessel. Earlier, we wrote about Solar Voyager, an autonomous solar-powered boat that was supposed to cross the Atlantic. But the story, unfortunately, did not end well.