Saildrone is a rising star in the field of autonomous seagoing vehicles. While this category may not be well-known to the general public, it is becoming increasingly important across numerous industries. The company’s latest vessel, the Voyager, is a 33-foot uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) that strikes a balance between its shorter Explorer and large-scale Surveyor models. Saildrone is already producing one Voyager per week.
The Voyager is designed for near-shore maritime operations such as coastal and lake mapping. In addition to sonar equipment, each craft is equipped with traditional cameras, radar, and “sub-surface passive acoustics” to help build a picture of the sea or lake bed down to a depth of 900 feet. It also integrates other improvements, such as more power and a more consistent data uplink.
The benefits of using the Voyager are numerous. For example, it can provide up-to-date metrics on harbors or channels by surveying them every month. It can also identify illegal dumping sites, drifting trash like tangles of fishing equipment, and other unwelcome developments. Additionally, the Voyager has security applications, such as combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and smuggling.
The data provided by autonomous platforms like Saildrone’s is also useful for research purposes. The various sensors on board can detect wave action, salinity, water temperature, and other metrics that oceanographers, meteorologists, and other professionals can use. As near-shore industries like seaweed farms and fisheries multiply in the new blue economy, this data contributes to a more accurate picture of the ever-changing ocean.
Saildrone vessels do not require people on board, which means they can spend lots of time at sea or at inhospitable locations like polar waters. The Voyager has been undergoing testing since February of last year when the first prototype went into the water. It has been revised several times since, and the company says it is always in development mode as new technologies and use cases become available.
Saildrone is now moving into full production mode. The company has built 100 of its smaller Explorer craft since it was founded years ago, but now it is ready to produce a Voyager a week. To do so, it must outsource manufacturing of the wing, keel, and hull to partners Janicki Industries and Seemann Composites. However, the final vessel will be assembled and serviced at Saildrone’s main space in Alameda, CA.
In conclusion, Saildrone’s Voyager is a cutting-edge autonomous seagoing vehicle that has numerous applications across various industries. Its ability to survey near-shore areas and provide up-to-date metrics is invaluable, and its security applications are also important. Additionally, the data it provides is useful for research purposes, contributing to a more accurate picture of the ocean. Saildrone’s move into full production mode is an exciting development that will undoubtedly lead to even more innovative uses for its vessels.