by Dom Wiseman

The CSIRO has announced a partnership with ocean technology start-up, Saildrone, to improve measurement and monitoring in Australian waters and the Southern Ocean. Saildrone are a San Francisco-based start-up.

The research partnership will be conducted over five years and will see the deployment of unmanned ocean surface vehicles, Saildrones, for the first time in Australian waters.


The aim is to expand the network of marine and climate monitoring systems around Australia. They will collect data on sea-surface temperatures, salinity levels, and ocean carbon. This will become the platform for continued development of the next generation of marine and climate technologies.

The craft are solar and wind powered with a maximum at sea time of 12 months. They can be tasked to assist in research including conducting stock assessments, uploading data from subsurface sensors or even responding to marine emergencies.

Controlled remotely from anywhere in the world, they are equipped with both automatic identification systems (AIS) and ship avoidance systems to alert and avoid other ocean users.

CSIRO Research Group Leader Andreas Marouchos said the partnership would see the organisation manage a fleet of three Saildrones deployed from the CSIRO in Hobart.

“This research partnership comes at a critical time for the marine environment, and at a time when technological innovation in the marine sector is booming,” Mr Marouchos said.

“Saildrones are long-range research platforms that can be sent to remote locations for an extended period of time, delivering real-time data back to scientists that was previously impossible to collect.”

“The devices gather fundamental information about our oceans and climate using a powerhouse of ocean chemistry, meteorological and marine acoustic sensors.

“CSIRO is at the forefront of advances in marine engineering and technology, with a demonstrated track record in providing new tools and methods for world-class oceans research.”

Australian Saildrone  founder and CEO Richard Jenkins said

“Saildrone and CSIRO share the same passion for innovation and engineering to help solve some of the most challenging problems facing the world,” Mr Jenkins said.

“Autonomy is a key technology for accessing the southern oceans, which are understudied due to the rough seas and the limited number of vessels that regularly pass through the region.”

This will be a true collaboration with the CSIRO involved in the development of the technology starting with developing and affixing sensors designed to measure ocean carbon, as well as provide biomass estimates in the water column.

By remotely controlling the craft, they can be quickly redirected to meet any need. They can provide a quick response to changing ocean conditions such as algal blooms. In the past measuring such an event required large vessels and crew.