The NOAA Fisheries' Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers are testing the first use of autonomous, wind and solar-powered vehicles, or saildrones, to gather essential data on West Coast fish populations. Beginning in June 2018, four saildrones will duplicate the path of the NOAA Fisheries ship Reuben Lasker as it collects data on populations of sardine, anchovy and other small fishes, to also survey hake, a deep-water species that is one of the West Coast's most valuable commercial fisheries. A fifth saildrone will explore different approaches to improving the accuracies and efficiencies of future stock assessments. The four-saildrone mission will run up to 100 days, and the fifth saildrone may be deployed for up to six months.
Scientists from the NOAA Fisheries' laboratories on the West Coast are gearing up to launch a total of 5 unmanned saildrones throughout the summer to test their performance for accurately assessing West Coast fish stocks. On June 26, two saildrones will leave Neah Bay, WA. The other three will launch from Saildrone Inc.'s location in Alameda, CA.
The Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Center scientists will guide the autonomous vehicles as they will work with replicate and augment the 80-day survey by NOAA ship Reuben Lasker. Four of the saildrones will collect acoustic data on sardine anchovy, hake and other species for up to 100 days, while a fifth launching from Alameda, CA on Aug. 13 will test various approaches for efficiently collecting data on fish populations in areas too shallow for the ship to navigate, and during fish migrations.
Stay tuned for updates as this expedition unfolds!