NOAA Saildrone Update #1: They’re off to the Arctic

This year, the Saildrone is faster, and has greater instrument and power capacity. PMEL and Saildrone Inc. began working together in 2014, first testing the saildrone and oceanographic equipment in the harsh Bering Sea. Since then, PMEL has continued to forge innovations and partnerships to further the capability of the research drone, including with NOAA Fisheries in 2016. In 2018, 12 saildrone are being used to expand NOAA’s use of cutting-edge technology to advance ocean observation of fisheries, weather, and climate science. For our 2018 Arctic missions, we are currently a few days out from crossing Bering Strait, and expect to arrive to the main study areas in the next 7-10 days.

Date Launched: 30 June, 2018

Total Mission Days: 12

Distance traveled: ~2400 nautical miles (~600 each drone)

  • Four saildrones launched from Dutch Harbor, Alaska on June 30, and are making their way northward, surveying more than 20,000 miles, through Bering Strait and beyond, to measure carbon dioxide and the abundance of Arctic cod in the Arctic Ocean. These two missions will gather measurements to identify ongoing changes to the Arctic ecosystem and how changes may affect the food-chain as well as large-scale climate and weather systems.

  • These two missions will continue to further demonstrate the operation of the drone at high-latitudes through the first fully autonomous acoustic fish survey and field tests of an updated carbon dioxide flux system that was re-designed to address challenges observed during the 2017 mission.

  • New in 2018 is the addition of a new generation platform (Gen 5), with increased pay load and solar panel capacity to extended arctic mission duration as the sun lowers in the fall, ADCPs on two drones (tested in the Tropical Pacific this past winter), as well as continued and new collaborations.

  • While the scientists can see the data in real-time, it does take a short bit to set-up and transmit those for download. We expect the first data files to arrive late this week, and anticipate more detailed data observations in the next update.

  • In 2018, select measurements from the saildrone missions are being transmitted via the Global Telecommunications System (GTS), and includes four parameters: air temperature, atmospheric pressure, sea surface temperature and relative humidity. This further extends the over 300,000 transmissions (of 1 min observations) combined of PMEL saildrone measurements started with an OOMD supported pilot project, the OpenGTS project. By placing these data onto the GTS, the forecast-ready meteorological data from these autonomous platforms are available to to the US and global weather forecasting community.

  • This week, as our drones made way north to the Arctic, they encountered some interesting weather. An intense low-pressure center, especially for this time of year, is moving north along the west coast of Alaska.  This includes very strong winds from the north that are being observed on St. Lawrence Island and in the vicinity of Bering Strait. Read more about this on the Follow the Saildrone blog as part of our 10 July post.

  • A. De Robertis (NOAA) and Robert Levine (University of Washington) are writing a blog, ‘Saildrones Head to the Arctic‘ for NOAA Fisheries.

  • We made! Read the feature story on the flotilla of NOAA saildrones this year here.


ARCTIC DBO-NCIS | Jessica Cross (NOAA) | CHUKCHI CARBON MISSION UPDATE -Multi-platform collaborative studies like NCIS are becoming more and more common as technology develops. The combination of diverse tools and institutional perspectives allows scientists to assess more complex questions and explore more remote regions than ever before. The saildrones are definitely a big part of that movement; their large size means that they can carry a very big payload with many sensors simultaneously collecting data. They’re also fast– the latest design is currently averaging speeds between 3 and 4 kts at the start of our mission here. KEEP READING.

ARCTIC EIS PHASE II  | Alex De Robertis (NOAA) & Robert Levine (UW) | CHUKCHI FISH MISSION UPDATE – We are using echosounders on two of the drones heading to the Arctic this year to determine the amount and distribution of Arctic cod, a fish that just about everything in Arctic waters eats; species of seals, whales, and seabirds depend on them.

One of the main things we’re trying to do is repeat a ship-based survey over the Chukchi Sea that we have been conducting in recent years. What we have learned from this and other work in the area is that there are very high abundances of young Arctic cod about two inches long (i.e. their first year of life) in the Chukchi Sea, but few adults in the area. KEEP READING.

Update courtesy of Heather Tabisola, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Lab 

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