Australia’s CSIRO Powering Breakthrough Ocean Monitoring Capabilities With Saildrone Partnership

CSIRO, Australia’s pre-eminent national science organization, has today announced a partnership with San Francisco Bay Area-based ocean technology start-up Saildrone to radically improve measurement and monitoring in hard-to-access oceans starting in the Southern Hemisphere.

CSIRO, Australia’s pre-eminent national science organization, has today announced a partnership with San Francisco Bay Area-based ocean technology start-up Saildrone to radically improve measurement and monitoring in hard-to-access oceans starting in the Southern Hemisphere.

The research partnership over five years between Saildrone and CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere group will activate the deployment of state-of-the-art autonomous unmanned ocean monitoring vehicles, Saildrones, for the first time in Australian waters.

CSIRO will collaborate on the development of Saildrone technology beginning with equipping the vehicles with specialized sensors designed to measure ocean carbon, as well as provide biomass estimates in the water column. These sensors will be added to the existing suite of marine and atmospheric sensors. CSIRO will acquire data from a fleet of three Saildrones as part of the partnership.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said, “This work is strengthening our commitment to the strategic importance of the southern oceans by leveraging innovation and global partnerships.” CSIRO has a long history of successful partnerships in the US dating back to helping put the first man on the moon with NASA,” Dr Marshall said. “With our new Silicon Valley office, we’re looking to help US organizations make the next big breakthroughs, and to create a foothold in the US to open the door to innovation for Australian SMEs and universities.”

The partnership between Saildrone and CSIRO is just one of a number of new research collaborations currently underway through the CSIRO US Office, which was launched in September 2017.

“These types of collaborations and partnerships are helping US companies leverage the incredible resources of Australia’s pre-eminent national science organization, giving them a global advantage in bringing new technologies to market,” said Susan Lucas-Conwell, executive vice president of CSIRO US. “Research with the Saildrones will expand CSIRO’s extensive network of marine and climate monitoring systems and provide a platform for the continued development of the next generation of marine and climate technologies.

“Saildrones are long-range research platforms that can be sent to remote locations for an extended period of time, delivering real-time data back to scientists that were previously impossible to collect,” said Andreas Marouchos, CSIRO Research Group Leader.

The ability to remotely control the Saildrones from anywhere in the world means they can be re-tasked quickly to meet CSIRO’s science needs, providing a new way to measure ocean conditions associated with events like marine heatwaves or toxic algal blooms that in the past would have required extensive planning and expense for a ship and crew.

Saildrone founder and CEO Richard Jenkins said that CSIRO provided a unique opportunity for marine research collaboration in the Southern Hemisphere. “Saildrone and CSIRO share the same passion for innovation and engineering to help solve some of the most challenging problems facing the world,” said Mr Jenkins. “Autonomy is a key technology for accessing the southern oceans, which are understudied due to the rough seas and the limited number of vessels that regularly pass through the region,” Mr Jenkins said.

Additional Facts:

  • Saildrones are solar and wind-powered and can be at sea for up to 12 months at a time.
  • Saildrones can be tasked to assist in answering a range of science missions, including conducting stock assessments, uploading data from subsurface sensors or responding to marine emergencies.
  • The systems can be controlled remotely from anywhere in the world and re-tasked quickly to meet CSIRO’s science needs
    Saildrones are equipped with both automatic identification systems (AIS) and ship avoidance systems to alert and avoid other ocean users.

Additional Comments:

  • “This research partnership comes at a critical time for the marine environment, and at a time when technological innovation in the marine sector is booming,” said Andreas Marouchos, the research group leader.
  • “The devices gather fundamental information about our oceans and climate using a powerhouse of ocean chemistry, meteorological and marine acoustic sensors,” Mr Marouchos said.
  • “CSIRO is at the forefront of advances in marine engineering and technology, with a demonstrated track record in providing new tools and methods for world-class oceans research,” Mr Marouchos said.