Story image

From San Francisco to the Southern Ocean: The tale of a Saildrone shipwreck

29 Aug 2018

The case of a missing saildrone that set off from San Francisco three years ago has finally been solved right here in New Zealand.

You might think the Southern Ocean is the place to spot whales and other marine life – the last place you’d ever expect a rogue drone to show up.

But that’s exactly what happened to an Otago University team that was out exploring the area. The Department of Conservation asked the team to venture out to Enderby Island’s Sandy Bay, where the drone had washed up.

The seven-metre-long Saildrone is an unmanned surface vehicle with a carbon fibre wing-sail.

“It’s a new platform for studies of the ocean and atmosphere. Data from a wide range of on-board sensors are streamed in real time via satellite, so scientists can study remote ocean areas at a tiny fraction of the usual cost,” comments Otago University Professor Steve Dawson.

This particular Saildrone set off from San Francisco in August 2015 with the goal of making the world’s first unmanned circumnavigation of earth.

Obviously, things went a little wrong somewhere – even though it is able to sail autonomously for months at a time, and it’s also able to follow a particular track.

So what happened? Saildrone’s founder Richard Jenkins says the drone travelled to the equator to take measurements for El Nino studies. But the whole process took too long.

When the Saildrone reached Cape Horn in late winter, there were fierce storms that knocked it off course.

“We lost contact shortly after it rounded Cape Horn. From there the vessel’s track is a mystery that downloading the on-board data-logger might solve,” Jenkins says.

Dawson adds that he was amazed that the Saildrone was still intact. Only the outriggers and wing-sail were damaged.

“This tiny unmanned yacht has survived the world’s roughest oceans for almost three years. Considering the impressive array of data Saildrone can collect, it’s clear that this will be a key technology for monitoring our changing world,” Professor Dawson says.

The Department of Conservation is holding onto the Saildrone and its data until it can be reunited with Mr Jenkins.

However that’s not the end of the Saildrone high-sea adventures, and Jenkins says he plans to launch the latest generation from Bluff in Antarctica. The mission: To circumnavigate Antarctica.

“The newest version even has a recorder for whale sounds, and an echo-sounder for studying aggregations of fish and krill. It’s very exciting technology,” Dawson concludes.

Web design programmers do an about face – again!
Google is aggressively pushing speed in the mobile environment as a critical ranking factor, and many eb design teams struggling to reach 80%+ speed scores on Google speed tests with gorgeous – but heavy - WordPress templates and themes.
Digital spending to hit US$1.2 trillion by 2022
A recent study by Zinnov shows that IoT spend reached US$201 billion in 2018 while outsourcing service providers generated $40 billion in revenue.
'Iwi Algorithm' can grow Aotearoa's mana
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei innovation officer Te Aroha Grace says AI can help to combine the values from different cultures to help grow Aotearoa’s mana and brand – and AI is not just for commercial gain.
Dropbox brings in-country document hosting to A/NZ & Japan
Dropbox Business users in New Zealand, Australia, and Japan will be able to store their Dropbox files in-country, beginning in the second half of 2019.
Why 'right to repair' legislation could be a new lease on life for broken devices
“These companies are profiting at the expense of our environment and our pocketbooks as we become a throw-away society that discards over 6 million tonnes of electronics every year.”
Kiwis know security is important, but they're not doing much about it
Only 49% of respondents use antivirus software and even fewer – just 19% -  change their passwords regularly.
Instagram: The next big thing in online shopping?
This week Instagram announced a new feature called checkout, which allows users to buy products they find on Instagram.
Apple's AirPods now come with 'Hey Siri' functionality
The new AirPods come with a standard case or a Wireless Charging Case that holds additional charges for more than 24 hours of listening time.