Canadian startup Open Ocean Robotics deploys autonomous boats in the open seas for environmental monitoring missions, such as tracking weather conditions or protecting marine animals.
These small, unmanned, autonomous electric boats are capable of withstanding all weather conditions, even the most extreme. They are even able to right themselves automatically should they capsize. They can be deployed for several months because they are powered by onboard solar panels, all while producing no greenhouse gas emissions, or even noise pollution.
Their electric motor is interchangeable, so it is easy to replace it if necessary. To carry out their missions, these unmanned vessels are equipped with 360-degree cameras, a weather station to record wind speed and direction, barometric pressure and air temperature, a probe to measure water depth or temperature, and a wave sensor. Other sensors can be added on a case-by-case basis to measure, for example, the salinity of the water, as well as a side scan sonar system or thermal imaging cameras.
The boats transmit their data in real time to the Vancouver Island Technology Park. The information collected is then dispatched to the various organizations and clients concerned. The missions can be multiple, bearing in mind that these veritable "marine drones" can patrol a whole region.
They can be used to monitor marine mammals, starting with whale populations, which are under threat of extinction on the Canadian coast. They are also capable of detecting poachers and cracking down on illegal fishing. On another front, these boats can help ships take more fuel-efficient routes by providing real-time data on ocean conditions. Finally, they can be used to monitor oil spills and other discharges into the ocean.
For the moment, the number of boats in service can be counted on one hand. However, the goal is to get as many as possible up and running to meet a wide range of demands, not just off the Canadian coast.
Find out more about Open Ocean Robotics and its work in this video: youtu.be/w2XmLlFhD2Q