Local Inventors Gain International Attention

Courtesy NOAA     A fleet of Alameda Point-built saildrones was recently prepared to go into service for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

Alameda techonology company Saildrone has produced a sailing robot at Alameda Point. The National Oceanic and Atomospheric Administration (NOAA) will use the drone to study sealife. NOAA will distribute five of the unmanned vehicles to track melting ice, measure carbon dioxide levels in the ocean and count numbers of fish and sea mammals.

According to The Cordova Times, “in September scientists plan to launch two more saildrones from Alameda, on a six-month, 8,000-nautical-mile, round-trip mission to the equator and back to improve the Tropical Pacific Observing System.”

The drones can also be used to track water-borne vehicles and perform counter-espionage at sea as the company recently demonstrated for dignitaries at the Point. Saildrone aims to become a major global player in the $2.5 trillion sea security business. 

Alameda engineers Dylan Owens and Richard Jenkins built the drone, which they’ve nicknamed “Honey Badger.” They describe it as a “wind-powered autonomous surface vehicle.”

At 19 feet in length, 20 feet in height, the contraption consists of a narrow hull with two outriggers on both sides. Its tall carbon-fiber wing gives the appearance of a faux sail and helps the drone constantly right itself regardless of wind direction. 

The vehicle is so sophisticated it autopilots along its proper course without need of human sailors, transforming wind energy into forward propulsion. 

Back in 2014, Saildrone performed its first major trial voyage sailing out of San Francisco Bay bound for Hawaii. The Badger’s computer brain was given the coordinates for the near-2,250-mile trip which it completed in 34 days at times in horrific wind and rain. 

The Alameda inventors say their Saildrone Badger has many more possible uses including replacing ship motors and helping cut greenhouse gas emissions. The device can track climate change on several levels; perform early oil platform spill detection; and monitor the movements of marine animals at all times of day or night. 

The Alameda Badger returned from the trip to Hawaii in nearly identical condition as when it first sailed out of San Francisco Bay. No affixed barnacles, sludge, attached detritus and debris, cracks or breaks.