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Self-Driving Sailing Ships Do Science

21 Jul 2021, 05:09 UTC
Self-Driving Sailing Ships Do Science
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IMAGE: Saildrone uncrewed sailing vehicles (USVs), like the one pictured here, made measurements of atmospheric cold pools in remote regions of the tropical Pacific Ocean. CREDIT: Saildrone Inc.

While we have the ability to see across the vastness of space, our own oceans only like to reveal a few meters to tens of meters of their contents of time. This can make exploration tricky. Even the surface of the ocean can be fickle in letting us understand what’s going on. Satellites can’t see beneath clouds, and the surface temperatures of waters beneath storms can often decide the outcome of the storms in those clouds.

Since we can’t cake the ocean with sensors, scientists have instead developed a remote control ocean drone, powered by solar power, that can navigate to places of interest. In a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters, a team led by Samantha Wills sent ten uncrewed sailing vehicles into the pools of cool air beneath thunderstorms.

As it rains, water will evaporate, and this process pulls energy from the air and makes the temperatures drop. The cold air sinks, creating a downdraft that then hits the warm ocean surface where it is heated and begins to ...

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