As the demand for clean energy continues to rise, offshore wind farms have become a key solution. However, it’s crucial to ensure that these developments don’t harm marine ecosystems. Large whale species, which heavily rely on acoustics for many important life functions, are particularly sensitive to underwater noise.
To address these concerns, Saildrone is collaborating with RPS, a provider of protected species monitoring and mitigation compliance services. Together, they are developing a monitoring network that utilizes cutting-edge acoustic technology, autonomous vehicles, and machine learning to detect, classify, and localize marine mammals.
Saildrone has deployed two uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) equipped with proprietary underwater acoustic systems off the coast of Massachusetts. These saildrones, which are virtually silent, recorded numerous marine mammal vocalizations during a two-week period. The passive acoustics package installed on the saildrones is designed to detect underwater acoustic phenomena, specifically focusing on reducing impacts on whale and dolphin species caused by human activities.
The capabilities of Saildrone’s vehicles have been demonstrated through extensive ocean deployments, and their USV models have been developed with flexibility and endurance in mind.
Saildrone CTO Brian Hernacki emphasized the significance of this achievement, stating that it represents a substantial step forward in studying and protecting whales and marine mammals. The passive acoustic technology allows for non-invasive and cost-effective data collection, while the mobility and endurance of the uncrewed platforms enable unprecedented monitoring capabilities, facilitating research, conservation, and commercial enterprise.
The data collected by Saildrone will be processed by RPS’s acoustic scientists. They will use RPS’s machine learning tool, Neptune, to identify the types of vocalizations detected and the species responsible for them. This real-time monitoring and detection system allows for proactive measures to be taken in the presence of whales.
The collaboration between Saildrone and RPS is supported by the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium (NOWRDC), which aims to facilitate the coexistence of offshore wind with wildlife and other ocean users. The project received a significant award from NOWRDC to support its efforts.
Saildrone doesn’t just contribute to marine mammal monitoring; the company also provides essential ocean data to support the entire life cycle of offshore wind farms. Their USVs offer high-resolution ocean mapping, year-round ecosystem monitoring, and maritime security solutions. By providing accurate and timely information, Saildrone enables developers and operators to make informed decisions that prioritize the protection of marine life.
As the offshore wind industry continues to grow, Saildrone’s innovative solutions will play a critical role in ensuring sustainable and responsible renewable energy development. This approach sets an example for other offshore industries, highlighting the importance of responsible and environmentally conscious practices.
– National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium (NOWRDC)