Series| Hard Reset

Hacking the Anthropocene with survivalist robots

80% of our ocean floors have never been studied. This robot sailboat is unlocking the most treacherous parts.
Watch on YouTube

Oceans cover 70% of Earth’s surface. But there’s still so much we don’t understand about oceans, from seafloor topography to what surface conditions are like in a certain part of the world at any given time.

One problem is size: It’s expensive, impractical, and fuel-intensive to have many manned ships roaming the oceans. That’s why Saildrone is building a fleet of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) to constantly monitor the conditions of the world’s oceans.

Powered by wind and solar, each Saildrone carries 20 scientific sensors that can measure things like water temperature changes, wildlife activity, CO2 concentration, and pollution. Saildrones can stay out at sea for months — or even years — without needing maintenance. And when they do require maintenance, the drones simply guide themselves back to port.

The long-term vision of Saildrone is to be able to measure every aspect of the oceans’ health — from pollution to fish populations — in real time.

Subscribe to Freethink for more great stories