Six Hurricane-Faring Autonomous Drones to Collect Data in Gulf Stream Region

The same Saildrones captured the first-ever video from inside a major hurricane from sea level in September.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Six autonomous Saildrones are taking off on a six-month journey to tackle some of Earth's most challenging ocean conditions, in order to improve climate change and weather forecast computer models, reported CNN.

They will travel to the Gulf Stream throughout the winter months where they will collect data about the process by which oceans absorb carbon (carbon uptake). So far, the numbers on this type of activity have only been estimates produced by statistical methods that cannot, therefore, be relied upon.

"This Saildrone mission will collect more carbon dioxide measurements in the Gulf Stream region in winter than has ever been collected in this location and time of year," said Jaime Palter, a scientist at the University of Rhode Island who is co-leading the research.

"With this data, we will sharpen our quantification of ocean carbon uptake and the processes that enable that uptake in this dynamic region."

This work will be crucial to properly estimate the Global Carbon Budget.

If the Saildrones seem familiar, it is because, in September 2021, they captured the first-ever video from inside a major hurricane from sea level, tackling hurricane Sam's more than 50-foot waves and 120 mph winds to bring us the footage.

This fact exemplifies how well built the Saildrones are for handling the ocean's often treacherous weather conditions. In addition, they are also solar and wind-powered making them eco-friendly.

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Palter added that the area the Saildrones will be investigating is one of the harshest in all the oceans. This is also why there is so little data about carbon uptake in the Gulf Stream. Thus far, no ship has been sturdy enough to tackle this mission.

What Palter most seeks to answer with the new data he will hopefully collect is whether the carbon in the Gulf Stream enters the deep circulation where it can be stored for hundreds of years or whether it rises to the ocean's surface. This is a question whose answer is key to climate mitigation.

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