Published: 2019-10-24

First autonomous East to West Atlantic crossing completed

Technology First autonomous East to West Atlantic crossing completed

Photo: Saildrone

Saildrone USVs are designed to perform in the harshest ocean conditions on the planet, including those that crewed ships often avoid.

On its return trip, Saildrone unmanned surface vehicle (USV), designation SD 1021, took the direct northern route from New York to the English Channel. The vessel sailed predominantly upwind and against the current, completing the 3,402-nautical mile (6,301.59-kilometer) passage in just 68 days.

The vehicles are powered exclusively by the wind for propulsion and use solar energy to run onboard computers and navigational instruments. They are equipped with a suite of science-grade sensors to collect oceanographic and meteorological data above and below the sea surface including wind speed and direction, air and sea surface temperature, atmospheric pressure, photosynthetically available radiation, wave height and period, dissolved oxygen, salinity, and acidity levels

The USVs can be deployed from any oceanside dock, and autonomously navigate a set of prescribed waypoints before returning to port. Mission managers work closely with Saildrone's research partners to plan routes and equip the vehicles according to mission objectives.

Richard Jenkins, founder and CEO, Saildrone, said, "During 2019, our saildrones have circumnavigated Antarctica, spent 700 days in the Arctic sampling the retreating ice edge, completed our first survey of the North Sea, and now crossed the hostile North Atlantic in both directions. There is no part of the [unfrozen] ocean that we cannot now measure."

Saildrone’s fleet of USVs is actively engaged in fisheries, bathymetry, and climate science missions around the globe, with an additional 50 vehicles expected to deploy in 2020.

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