sail drone
The Honey Badger by Sail drone could assist in sea-going conservation. Sail Drone

While most drones are known for their aerial abilities and their affiliation with the military, one company is helping to change that perception by developing seagoing drones that have the potential to solve some of the world’s most pressing ocean-related problems.

Saildrones’ Honey Badger is one such vessel. The unmanned, 19-foot-long, 7-foot-wide craft was originally developed to sail around the world and break speed records. It recently returned from a 2,336 mile trip from San Francisco to Hawaii and it's currently on another journey in the Pacific Islands, but it has since taken on a far more important role.

Inventor Richard Jenkins believes that sea drones could eventually replace tsunami and weather buoys, or be used around the base of oil platforms to find oil spills and alerts the authorities automatically. In addition, Jenkins sees a conservation role for the Honey Badger. Marine animals like sharks and whales could be tagged and followed by boat, allowing for more accurate data to be sent to researchers and warn sea-going traffic to avoid them.

He also believes that governments could use them to protect borders, coastlines and islands and even protect marine life by taking pictures of vessels in the general area of protected areas.

“This has big implications for the cost of ocean science measurements,” he says. But that’s a longer-term goal. Saildrone is still in the R&D phase, Jenkins says, “and not trying to sell to a market.”

Saildrone - Autonomous Ocean Science Vehicle from Richard Jenkins on Vimeo.