The hard wind design emerged from a decade-long pursuit of the land speed record – company founder Richard Jenkins ultimately achieved 126.2mph in 2009, having started his Windjet Project in 1999 while studying mechanical engineering at Imperial College.
Using wind power for propulsion, a Saildrone fleet travels at 3-5kts, with each drone collecting high-resolution data either by holding station or following a survey pattern.
The drones sail autonomously from a conventional dock to the area of interest, where they operate in the open sea until they return for servicing, when they can be sent out again. Measured parameters are send back to base in real-time.
According to the firm: We are building the world’s largest high resolution ocean datasets, working with governments and private companies around the globe. We believe that better inputs in planetary models in turn yield better outputs and that the new insights gained in weather forecasting, carbon cycling, global fishing and climate change will have tremendous impact on humanity.
The company argues that fleets of these drones can gather data more cheaply than ships or moored buoys, particularly in remote harsh environments.