A Canadian company has developed a small autonomous solar-powered boat. It should make it possible to watch over the oceans much closer than what was possible until now.
The Blue Planet. This is how we call our Earth. Because it is largely covered by oceans. At more than 70% and of which a large volume still remains to be explored in depth. This is important because, as scientists know, the ocean plays a leading role in the evolution of our climate and the maintenance of biodiversity. It also arouses a lot of desires. Many would like not only to exploit its fish resources, but also its fossil resources. Gas, oil and many other raw materials that it hides. Not to mention the trade routes that have been traced there over the centuries.
But exploring — or simply watching over — the ocean is no easy task. The environment is hostile. And so vast. So maybe thanks to new technologies? This is what a Canadian company, Open Ocean Robotics, is hoping for. It has developed for this purpose what it calls an unmanned surface vehicle, a Uncrewed surface vehicule or USV. Understand an autonomous boat – but which can also be piloted remotely, like a drone of the seas – capable of venturing offshore and facing waves and storms thanks to a system that allows it to right itself automatically. All this while counting on solar energy alone and with an autonomy estimated at several months.
Valuable ocean data
Open Ocean Robotics’ autonomous boat is equipped with sensors, cameras and communication devices that allow information to be recorded and transmitted in real time. With many goals. First, to replace research vessels which, casually, emit greenhouse gases (GHG). The equivalent of a hundred cars each year, advances the Canadian company. This is little compared to the 1,000 megatonnes of GHGs emitted annually by sea freight. But the USV also has the ambition to find routes for these boats that would allow them to save fuel. Depending on the weather conditions, in particular.
Another mission that this autonomous boat could fulfill: to fight against illegal fishing. It is estimated that it still concerns 20% of the fish caught each year. And USV patrols could flag suspicious vessels. They could also spot outgassing or oil spills in the oceans. Then participate in oil spill cleanup efforts. More generally, Open Ocean Robotics’ autonomous boat aims to collect data on the changes taking place in the ocean. To help better understand its role in the process of climate change and the effects it will suffer. Among the targets favored by Canadian society: the Arctic Ocean, which remains among the least mapped.