The NOAA Drones! Unmanned vessels deployed for Alaska ocean research

alaska-marine-mammal-monitoringResearchers in the Bering Sea off Alaska’s west coast will get help this summer from drones, but not the kind that fly. The NOAA and private researchers are gathering data on marine mammals, fish and ocean conditions from two “autonomous sailing vessels” built by Saildrone, an Alameda, California, company. “Think of a 20-foot outrigger canoe with an airplane wing sticking up from the middle,” said Chris Sabine, director of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, at a press teleconference Friday. They hold great appeal for researchers because they’re far cheaper to operate than research ships and they can work in dangerous conditions of the North Pacific. Researchers will use the vessels to gather information on pollock, an important species for commercial fishermen and the main prey of northern fur seals, a species that has declined. Instruments on board also will collect oceanographic data used to track environmental changes. Read the rest here 22:48