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Unmanned robotic sailboats will be deployed to the Gulf of Maine for seafloor mapping project

In this April 2015 photo released by NOAA Fisheries, a Saildrone, a 20-foot sailing vessel research platform developed by California-based Saildrone Inc., is tested in the Bering Sea. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel Oscar Dyson is in the background. Two of the unmanned sailing vessels were launched May 24, 2016, from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, for marine mammal, fish and oceanographic research in the Bering Sea by federal and private researchers.

Posted on August 28, 2023

Fishermen are being asked to watch out for two robotic sailboats that will be cruising in the Gulf of Maine starting next week.

The wind and solar-powered boats, called Saildrone Voyagers, will operate at low speeds between a series of predetermined survey lines.

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the 33-foot unmanned boats, which are bright orange in color, will collect data needed to make high resolution maps of a 1,900 square mile stretch of seafloor in the Gulf of Maine.

NOAA officials said the area is known to contain deep sea coral habitat, and it’s also of interest to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management as a potential site for commercial offshore wind development.

The vehicle’s sensors can measure air and water temperatures, humidity, salinity and wave heights. Though this will be the first time that the boats will be deployed in the Gulf of Maine, NOAA said it has used them before to gather information in the Gulf of Mexico, collect fisheries data on the West Coast and Alaska and improve NOAA hurricane forecasting.

NOAA and the New England Fishery Management Council are asking fishermen to stay at least 500 meters away from the boats, and avoid setting fixed gear in their survey path. The vehicles will be deployed to the northeastern Gulf of Maine from Aug. 28 through Oct. 18, starting in the waters far east off Cape Cod, before heading north toward the Midcoast.

More information can be found about the planned Gulf of Maine survey area here.



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