Antarctica—Aker BioMarine is launching an unmanned solar-powered ocean data drone (Sailbuoy) as part of its operations in the Antarctic to advance a new data-driven era of sustainable fishery and fishery management, according to a press release.

The two-meter-long data drone collects, processes, and transmits density and distribution data from wherever it is deployed, in real time. It is equipped with echosounder and environmental sensors and, the release says, is easy to operate, launch, and recover. The Sailbuoy can reach a speed of 2 knots. It is built to survive the tough environmental conditions, while being small and unobtrusive so as not to disturb the local wildlife.

According to the release, the use of the drone significantly reduces the financial and environmental costs of searching for krill: It minimizes the need for fishing vessels to spend time and resources looking for krill and, thanks to the fact that it is propelled by wind and powered by solar panel, the drone has a carbon footprint of zero.
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Frank Grebstad, SVP Vessel Operations, said in the release: “Finally deployed after a number of years in development, the Sailbuoy is changing how we work. We can position it close to the vessel and it will do the searching for us, or we can let it cover remote areas for up to months at a time, telling us where and when to proceed. As our Antarctic eyes and ears, the data the ocean drone is collecting is proving absolutely invaluable, and it is enabling us to make our operations even more sustainable and more focused, further lowering our impact.”

Offshore Sensing, the company that built the Sailbuoy, is pleased to put the ocean drone to practical use. David Peddie, the CEO, said in the release: “Albeit small, the Sailbuoy is designed to make a major impact when it comes to improving efficiency and helping the companies make better decisions based on real-time data. This Sailbuoy will help Aker BioMarine enter a new data-driven era of sustainable fishery.”