Three Saildrone Explorers, uncrewed surface vehicles used to measure ocean data, embarked on a six-month journey around Maui, Hawaiʻi Island, Oʻahu and Kauaʻi to evaluate ocean health across the state.
The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, and the Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies, are working with Saildrone Inc. to pilot the effort, according to a UH news release.
The 23-foot ocean drones will send back critical data and images in real-time to scientists in Hawaiʻi and Washington State so they can assess how climate change and ocean acidification are impacting our coastal waters, UH reports.
The saildrones left from Pacific Shipyards International in Honolulu Harbor on Oʻahu in March and the official mission started on April 1.
Each saildrone will collect critical ocean chemistry observations around Hawaiʻi to better assess the state’s vulnerability to ocean chemistry changes. This effort is a part of the $50 million gift from Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg to the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology in 2022 to improve Hawaiʻi’s ocean health.
The saildrones will provide information about Hawaiian Island nearshore water quality and chemistry in a way that has not been possible using previous shipboard approaches, according to UH.
“These ocean drones will be out sampling continuously for the next six months, providing a thousand times more ocean chemistry measurements in coastal waters than has ever been available,” said Christopher Sabine, PhD, UH Mānoa interim Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship and oceanography professor in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.
Beginning off of Hawaiʻi Island, two saildrones will zigzag between the island’s coastline and 5 kilometers offshore, and the third saildrone will sail a direct continuous route around the island. The instruments will only monitor atmospheric and ocean properties and will not collect any data that can be used to identify people, marine mammals or fish locations.
“The saildrones will be measuring different water quality measurements and this will help tell us a little bit about how our water chemistry is changing with climate change, and with changing ocean conditions in our nearshore environment,” said Amy Markel, an oceanography PhD student who is working with Sabine on this project.
Original source: https://mauinow.com/2023/04/02/uncrewed-saildrones-gather-ocean-data-for-uh-research/