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Earth Businesses Robotics Science Hardware Technology

A Fleet of Sailing Robots Sets Out To Quantify the Oceans (bloomberg.com) 76

pacopico writes: A start-up in California called Saildrone has built a fleet of robotic sailboats that are gathering tons of data about the oceans. The saildrones rely on a hard, carbon-fiber sail to catch wind, and solar panels to power all of their electronics and sensors. "Each drone carries at least $100,000 of electronics, batteries, and related gear," reports Businessweek. "Devices near the tip of the sail measure wind speed and direction, sunlight, air temperature and pressure, and humidity. Across the top of the drone's body, other electronics track wave height and period, carbon dioxide levels, and the strength of the Earth's magnetic field. Underwater, sensors monitor currents, dissolved oxygen levels, and water temperature, acidity, and salinity. Sonars and other acoustic instruments try to identify animal life." So far they've been used to find sharks, monitor fisheries, check on climate change and provide weather forecasts. Saildrone just raised $90 million to build a fleet of 1,000 drones, which it thinks will be enough to measure all of the world's oceans.

A Fleet of Sailing Robots Sets Out To Quantify the Oceans

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  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @10:15PM (#56624384) Journal

    "Hundred thousand dollar pieces of equipment are just floating around free!"

    • ^^ First thought. They make them sound like floating treasure chests. At least *try* to play it off in the press brief.

      "Yup $100K: They cost $80K in labor to build, carry $10K in sensors, and deploy with $10K worth of sharks with laserbeams and that audio weapon that makes you shit yourself. Foff, pirates."
    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      "Each drone carries at least $100,000 of electronics...Saildrone just raised $90 million to build a fleet of 1,000 drones"

      So, without the electronics, they can build a sailboat for -$10K! Sell at a loss, and make it up in volume is finally true!
    • There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY there are hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment on board.
      Even if they bought everything retail down at the local shop, that would be simply ridiculous.

      What they mean is 'we did a bit of hardware development, cut ourselves a MASSIVE overheads and development
      markup, then we claim its worth this'

      I can guarantee that any of 1000 small product development locations in China could build them for under $1000
      in electronics. Easily. Without even trying.

      One of the projects I h

      • you claim

        "One of the projects I have right here has high resolution GPS and 6dof inertial, high resolution pressure, 100km capable radio,
        32bit micro, batteries to store enough energy for 6 months operation (including the radio), flash storage in the GBytes, solar for recharge,
        waterproof packaging, and the total cost is under $100usd..."

        I'm all ears show me where I can purchase or at least a Bill Of Materials / Parts

        interested

      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        Are you using all the sensors in the list?

        "Each drone carries at least $100,000 of electronics, batteries, and related gear," reports Businessweek. "Devices near the tip of the sail measure wind speed and direction, sunlight, air temperature and pressure, and humidity. Across the top of the drone's body, other electronics track wave height and period, carbon dioxide levels, and the strength of the Earth's magnetic field. Underwater, sensors monitor currents, dissolved oxygen levels, and water temperature, a

      • by RevDisk ( 740008 )
        I'm extremely interested in a BOM. Or hell, purchasing.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Each drone carries at least $100,000 of electronics, batteries, and related gear"

      What happens if the value of the gear goes down? Does it have to be loaded with more gear so it reaches the $100,000 point?

      (No really though. Grammar is not something you can mess with. This isn't a game.)

      Captcha: audited

    • Somolian pirates now operating captured drones!
      If these things have residual value at all, they will become “salvage”.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is exactly the kind of objective, horizon-advancing science that we need, in my mind to see further into some of our most pressing problems on the planet.

    That said - we've got a planet full of folks who will almost undoubtedly dismiss anything that comes out of it, if the answers it finds can in any way be connected ideas that might challenge their fragile ideas of a planet that only serves their interests.

    Any hint that significant extinction events, significant warming, or even just over-fishing are g

    • You seem convinced of what will come out of this study. What if the results aren't what you expect - are you willing to say "my bad" and leave your current positions?
      • Why should he when there's no way in hell that you ever would?

      • Don't project your anti-science onto everyone.
      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        The reason we do research, real research not the "I researched on Stacker Flow and copied some code", is that we do not know so we go and look.

        If you you know how long it will take, how much it will cost, and what the results will be it isn't research.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Before I make one comment plus or minus such a project which I'm very interested in. I want to know one simply thing. Will I get access to the original unadulterated data or this going to be another project where the PTB decide to modify the data and throw the real data out or simply deny me from getting access to it.

      If I can't see the true original data than this project is meaningless to me and to many others.

      Obviously not all deniers but some do question the analysis because they are denied access to the

      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        Unless done for a classier or private sector project the researcher must publish it for verification. I've worked with raw voltage readings to check calibration and ensure the gear was working properly.

      • Ahh... the raw data, virginal and pure as the driven snow. Maybe your time would be better spent understanding why the modifications are made and the techniques used to do the modifications. Very little raw data comes without defects. Calibration issues, measurement bias and for large long term data sets changes in the methods used to collect the data as modern methods improve and other things all affect the quality of the data. These are things the scientists have to take into account when analyzing th

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just 10 years late: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/cs/research/ir/robots/beagle-b/

  • Hundreds of sail drones mysteriously go missing.
  • by misnohmer ( 1636461 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @10:55PM (#56624536)

    Catch a drone, load it up with contraband, release it, catch it at the destination, retrieve your stuff.

    Or, just build ones that look just like them - coastguard will likely ignore them (no humans on board to even as to stop and board).

  • Good technology for the environment
  • by scdeimos ( 632778 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @11:28PM (#56624678)
    From TFA [bloomberg.com]:

    "What's the definition of a sailor?" he [Richard Jenkins] asks while launching one of the drones off the Alameda dock. "A primitive organism for turning beer into urine."

  • by Tulsa_Time ( 2430696 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @12:21AM (#56624874)

    Pick up all the plastic trash....

  • So far they've been used to [...] check on climate change

    How exactly can *ANYONE* search for climate change? By definition this is a long-term process (as opposed to weather).

  • 1. Raise VC money, build and test drones.
    2. Gather data about the oceans
    3. ???????
    4. Profit

    BTW, this isn't satire. From TFA:

    Saildrone's investors say they're taking a longer view, and that a global database of the oceans will benefit the company's future more than chasing whatever business it can book today. "The most important asset is the data, and getting data that no one else can accumulate," says Chamath Palihapitiya, founder of investor Social Capital. Palihapitiya, like several of Saildrone's other b

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Yeah, so we'll work out the business model later."

      so like most Internet start-ups today!

    • If they gather enough data, and that data can predict long term trends, then you could do anything from playing the commodities market to real estate speculation. But the short term profit would be to the company founders not the investors. Or they get established as an occasional presence and then when enough mundane encounters have happened they flip the smuggling bit in the software ... lol either way, profit
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Their 'survey' is missing most of the ocean.
    It's below the surface where an autonomous glider would be perfect.

    Instead, they make both a tempting target and a nav hazard.
    Hope the world survives all the do-gooders.

  • For the last 18 years, the Argo [wikipedia.org] oceanic system has been collecting huge amounts of data. I can't see what this project adds to that body of knowledge.

    • Argo floats spend the vast majority of their time far under the surface of the ocean. They also passively float with the currents. The Saildrones monitor surface conditions of both the ocean and the atmosphere as well as use sonar to possibly monitor wildlife. The drones can be directed to sail to and monitor anywhere that is deep enough for them to not run aground.

  • So why on earth would a company send that much value into the wild, undefended? Locating them would be trivial. Harvesting them for anything of value would be equally trivial. So again, why? Did the VCs backing this even pause for a moment to consider the possibility they were being farmed?
    • " Locating them would be trivial. Harvesting them for anything of value would be equally trivial."

      I am wondering how you are going to find a single 2 meter craft in the entire ocean. Trivially?

      So say you do end up locating one, you then spend hundreds if not thousands on boat gas to get to it, then you have to disable it without triggering its possible security (that say sends a picture of the intruder right back to hq on the sat link).

      Then you have the probe onboard your vessel. You have 80k worth of ocean

  • perfect purpose (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fred133 ( 449698 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @12:16PM (#56627502) Homepage Journal

    They have sonar? Set them loose to find MH370.....

I've got a bad feeling about this.

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