Autonomous Solar and Wind Powered Boats Will Soon Patrol Our Oceans

  • Solar and wind powered self driving boats
  • Provide a constant stream of unprecedented live data about our oceans temperatures, sea level, currents, etc
  • Monitor for oil spills and research migrating animals
  • Map waters to dangerous for manned boats while monitoring for illegal fisherman
  • removing a traditional offshore research vessel from the ocean for 7 days is equivalent to the emissions of 100 cars over an entire year. 

Julie Angus of www.AngusAdventures.com is assembling the ‘Auto-Bots’… or at least the ‘Autoboats.’ The clean tech company at which she operates as CEO, Open Ocean Robotics, is developing solar and wind powered autonomous boats to create an Internet of Things (IoT) for the ocean. To collect some test data, an unmanned watercraft is attempting to be the first to successfully complete the journey across the Atlantic Ocean. The boats carry sensors, cameras and communication devices that gather valuable information which can be used for multiple purposes. The equipment can collect data to help protect at-risk marine animals, determine more fuel-efficient shipping routes, and contribute to a better understanding of the effects climate change has on our oceans.

Julie and her husband Colin are sending out the robots because, well, they’ve already rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. The pair has also rafted the Amazon River, completing the first human-powered journey around the world. No surprise, they are also recipients of the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award. The lightweight, durable autonomous boats they have developed are powered by wind and solar sustainable energy solutions.

solar and wind powered autonomous boats sailing across ocean
Force12 Xplorer autonomous sailboat by Open Ocean Robotics

The company has two models, the Force12 Xplorer and the Solar Xplorer. The first is a self righting sailboat that is expected to sail this summer from Newfoundland, Canada covering some 5000KM until arriving in Ireland.

The Solar Xplorer is expected to be the “world’s fastest offshore-capable energy harvesting boat.” The electric Solar Xplorer willl be deployed from California with the intentions to cross the Pacific, through the Southern Ocean, around Antarctica, and then back to California. If the journey is successful, they will be the first to complete it autonomously out of 28 attempts. 

worlds fastest offshore capable boat, solar powered environmentally friendly autonomous craft crossing oceans
image : Open Ocean Robotics
Solar Xplorer autonomous craft is expected to be the worlds fastest offshore-capable energy harvesting boat

Detect oil spills and illegal fishing vessels

Equipment on board the Solar Xplorer and Force12 Xplorer’s can monitor for oil spills while detecting acidification, sea level increases, ocean currents as well as cameras which could be used to look for things like illegally operating fishing vessels. The boats travel for months on end without emitting any greenhouse gases or noise pollution carry no risk for oil spills.

The impact these boats will have on our oceans

Self-driving boats harvesting wind and solar energy would offer a theoretically constant data stream from various mobile spots in the ocean. Environmentally friendly fleets could be used to patrol the outskirts of coral reefs monitoring for things like temperature change which could help in understanding and preventing coral bleaching. Self-driving boats running on renewable energy could be constantly surveying the oceans gathering useful information that could be used in a number of circumstances, providing us with a better understanding of our oceans.

They may peacefully come across endangered or migrating species giving us a glimpse into their elusive worlds, or maybe even give us the answers to some unexplained questions like where the worlds largest fish, the whale shark, gives birth or mates. Neither of these have been observed in the wild!

A key value of having these vehicles be autonomous or satellite controlled is that they can be brought into areas unfit for crafts carrying people. Open Ocean Robotics envisions use cases like mapping the 99% of the Canadian Arctic that has not been charted to modern standards in the last quarter century. Global warming adds challenges to the already unpredictable Arctic and it’s glaciers that can often be too dangerous to bring manned vehicles through. As an added bonus, removing a traditional offshore research vessel from the ocean for 7 days is equivalent to the emissions of 100 cars over an entire year. 

Julie’s startup was a winner at the 2018 “Women in Cleantech” competition held between the Canadian government and the Mars Discovery District, receiving $800,000 as well as access to government labs and useful research institutions. The money is being put towards research and development as well as protecting proprietary developments. They have since expanded their workspace and office facilities, currently operating from the Vancouver Island Technology Park. 

Watch The Open Ocean Robotics Force12 Xplorer in action

Despite everything Julie and her team are doing, they are not the only ones dedicated to creating a clean ocean and a sustainable future for the next generation. One startup has a system in the water today that is attempting to clean trillions of plastic particles from our oceans. Subscribe to the Millennial Online Community for weekly updates on sustainable developments and ethical brands that are creating a better future for the next generation!

 

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