Ten years after its first uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) crossed the Pacific Ocean, Saildrone announced that its fleet has covered over 1,042,620 nautical miles and totaled 32,438 days at sea. Starting in 2013 with a solitary drone bound for Hawaii, the company now commands a fleet of 136 USVs.
Richard Jenkins, Saildrone's founder and CEO, stated that these accomplishments emphasize the dependability of their technology, distinguishing Saildrone as a unique player in the long-range, autonomous maritime industry.
To put their journey in perspective, the company's combined nautical miles could encapsulate the Earth 48 times or make a round trip to the moon 2.5 times. Operating primarily on wind and solar power, the drones have been equipped with advanced sensors for environmental monitoring.
Collaborations have been a hallmark of Saildrone’s journey. Starting in 2015, they partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to undertake missions in the Arctic, aiming to comprehend shifts in its ecosystem. Two years later, they embarked on a series of extended missions to the Equatorial Pacific with NOAA to enhance weather predictions, especially events like El Niño and La Niña.
One notable milestone in 2019 was the autonomous circumnavigation of Antarctica. This mission aimed to gather data on the global carbon cycle, and the drone involved, SD 1020, covered 11,879 nautical miles in 196 days. Shortly after, another Saildrone USV achieved the fastest Atlantic crossing record.
Adapting to a myriad of maritime challenges, Saildrone introduced a 10-meter Voyager in 2020, tailored for tasks such as surveillance, law enforcement, and maritime security. The subsequent year saw the launch of the Saildrone Surveyor, a larger 22-meter USV for deep-sea mapping, which delivered bathymetry data on par with leading ocean survey vessels. In a testament to its resilience, another of their drones weathered Category 4 Hurricane Sam in 2021, documenting an astounding wind speed of 109.83 knots, a feat recognized by the 2024 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.
Currently, Saildrone's production rates stand at one mid-sized Voyager per week and one large-sized Surveyor per month, positioning them at the forefront of leveraging renewable energy and autonomous technology for comprehensive ocean data collection.