The Robots Roaming the High Seas

The Robots Roaming the High Seas


Intelligent. Indestructible. And with no humans on board, these sail boats are plotting their own course through the
waters of San Francisco Bay. If this guy gets his way, soon there will be hundreds of them trawling the ocean for data. (electronic music) This is Richard Jenkins. And he’s someone who likes a challenge. Here he is trying to
break the world record for land sailing in 2009. I registered at 116 miles an hour, which I thought was kind of a low bar and I could do it in maybe a year and it was actually anything but easy. Instead of one year, it took Jenkins a decade of toiling in
deserts around the world. But break the record he did, clocking just over 126 miles per hour in his own custom designed vehicle. The next challenge was a nod to Magellan with a modern twist. It encouraged me that
nothing has ever gone around the world unmanned
and it’s kind of the last great records to get. So Jenkins set out to
build a robotic sailboat capable of circumnavigating the globe. In 2013, he sent the world’s
first unmanned vessel across an ocean, going from
San Francisco to Hawaii. We actually called it the Honey Badger because, you know, it doesn’t give a shit, it just plows through anything. And somewhere, amidst all that, he found the time to start a new business. Based in this former aircraft
hangar, in Alameda, California Jenkin’s company Saildrone
has already raised 90 million dollars from investors. And here’s what’s got those
venture capitalists so excited. A 20 strong fleet of
autonomous sea-worthy drones. Who put the shark faces on them? That was me, last weekend,
I just freehanded that. Powered only by the wind and sun, these GPS guided bots can survive at sea for months at a time. Bristling with sensors,
scientific equipment, and cameras, they beam back real time data and images via satellite
from the ocean surface. These two vehicles are
on their way back from a seven, almost eight month voyage. Probably 10 thousand miles. Where did they go? Down to the Equatorial Pacific, studying El Nino affects on the equator. Right. You wanna know what it looks like? Is this the camera view? Yes, this is a real time camera view. And there it is, that’s a picture from Equatorial Pacific right now. It’s nice and sunny. It’s always sunny. It’s always sunny down there. Right now, Saildrone is busy prepping for a new mission. The 2000 mile round trip
to an area of Pacific Ocean known as the white shark cafe. Great White’s come to this
remote spot to hang out for months at a time and
scientists have spent decades wanting to know why. So we’re working with Stanford University to take these vehicles and
literally follow the sharks to the cafe to understand, literally, what they’re doing there. Is it food, is it reproduction? No one really knows. The drones are ideal
for missions like this. They’re much cheaper
than large research ships and can collect many
different types of data. PH, chlorophyll, humidity, radiation, wind speed, direction, temperature, the list goes on. We measure everything you
could possibly measure near the surface of the ocean. And data like this sheds light on something that affects everyone. The weather. There really is infinite use for more accurate weather and climate data. So a big focus for us this
year is deploying drones into the hurricane field so
we can find out how strong they’re going to be and
where they’re going to land. And the impacts of that
information is huge. So for insurance risk, financial markets, and for people’s safety. On an unmanned craft,
hurricane force winds would shred a conventional sail. So instead, the drones harness
the wind using the hard vertical wing adapted from
Jenkins’ land sailing days. When wind passes over an
airplane wing, it produces lift. In this case, the wind
produces thrust that moves the sail drone forward. Jenkins invented a tail,
with a small adjustable tab to control this force. It stops the wing from
spinning out of control and lets the robot make
snap sailing decisions. Everything about the craft is 100 percent salt-water proof and submersible. Today I’m hitching a
ride to see Rich deploy two of his drones to the white shark cafe. There’s not much wind
so they’re given a tow into San Francisco Bay
before being released. There’s enough wind here
now we can start sailing. We just left the city and this is where we normally let them go. Goodbye drone. As soon as their released,
they’re on full autonomous mode. You guys have gone 200
thousand nautical miles without an incident? Yep, we’ve had the drones
operating for four years now. And not a single scratch on the vehicle. And nobody’s every phoned
it in as a, like a UFO or some sailor’s like what
the hell are these things doing out in the water? No, they behave really predictably and safely around ships. And there are animals that
come up and check them out? Yep. We got some really good pictures. So, there’s a spotted fur
seal, jumped on for a ride up in the Chukchi sea
about 65 degrees north, and hung out there for about six hours. (electronic bubbly music) These drones have a two
week journey ahead of them before they make their shark rendezvous and soon, they’ll be part
of an even bigger fleet. I want to get a thousand drones within three to four years. And that gives us full global coverage so we have as much or
better data of oceans that we currently have for land and that will transform our
understanding of our planet. (electronic fading out)

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

100 Comments

  1. These are not more useful for weather, we already have satellite imagery to track that, doesn’t get more accurate than watching it from above. These autobots are just more floating garbage

  2. More human trash floating around in the oceans. All of that time and money just to figure out why sharks come together at a certain point. Just more trash floating around in the oceans.

  3. These will be perfect little sentinels for making sure mankind stays within it's allowed boundaries and doesn't venture too far toward the Antarctic Circle, which is currently on lock-down. The seas are being purposely taken over for supposed conservation, but the end goal is controlled exploration beyond the Antarctic Circle and beyond.

  4. "indestructible"? My ass!! Man has never made anything that can withstand Mother Nature's fury. Foolish bravado!!!!!!

  5. "Everything about the boat is salt water proof" Clearly you don't own a boat. Given enough time, nature will reclaim everything. Hopefully these drones will last a few years before being recycled.

  6. I was gonna do that. Except mine didnt have a sail or studied weather, just solar panel, camera, and pre navigated with a gps. It got home when it got home.
    Kind of like a contemporary message in a bottle type thing. And hopefully nobody messes with it.

  7. A stupid drone has as much responsibility to follow the rules of the sea. Unmanned vehicle keep clear doesn't cut it. There are navigation rules and drones should follow them as well.

  8. What stops the "Drones" from crashing into a ship at sea? Do they have any kind of obstacle avoidance capabilities? Assume these are set on a course, using GPS, to navigate the sea to a destination location or point in the sea?

  9. Fascinating. I only know that these wonderful inventions will be weaponised shortly and will be used against us. For every new technology that helps humanity, they will always develop the opposite to kill us.

  10. . 2:00 "..excited ..20 strong " sounds like a real money maker ( sarcasm )
    . 3:15 shark eyes look black because of a cover , underneath they are like our eye
    . 3:20 " ..follow sharks " ?! HOW ? this drone can not do it.
    . I will not invest

  11. Can’t imagine being stranded in the middle of the pacific, specially down between New Zealand and South America. Literally middle of nowhere

  12. How in the world would his land sail have traveled at over 100 mph unless the wind was going over that speed, unless of course it has alternate modes of propulsion—which kind of defeats the point?

  13. Deep sea buoys do the exact same thing he's been doing they've been doing it for longer since probably the twenties there's another Market he's looking for he's developing the software for the Navy it's a covert probably thing or they're watching closely to see if they can get Coastal drones like the Israeli drone boat if you had a fleet of them Thomas boats like I can carry one torpedo and one missile destroyer ship that be worth billions to the Navy what do you think he's chasing it so hard

  14. I'm sure they have them anyway a submarine drown could be helpful for tracking salmon as they leave freshwater for the seas only to return to their origins after five years.

  15. Just what "data" do we need to tell us to stop producing stuff? We KNOW what the problems are. We don't need any more "studies" etc. More money wasted to arrive at the same conclusion. This is a blatant example of "fiddling while Rome burns". These things will be roaming the oceans long after we have gone the way of the dodo. Yes we really need them

  16. There are more and more anty human electronic devices like this which tray to control nature and people and etc. Nature is 10 000 000 yeras old so it is very expirence person on every level which you can imagine yourself. It will be better to control satanic , stupid politican and strange organisation ??? Best from catholic Poland not Holland ..Only Jesus . Not for 447 Just and 330 tryloin $ for Jude organisation …Do you know this ?? Trump signed 1 yeras ago in congres such bad act against Poland . Whay ?

  17. I can see it now, Somalia pirates kidnapping them and turning them into toasters or Extinction Rebellion protesting about all the plastic robot boats washed up on beaches everywhere.🤣

  18. Such a wonderful video with clear and concise explanations. I used to work as a student for a Microtransat challenge, the goal of which is what the Saildrones embody precisely. Bloomberg captured the wonder perfectly here!

  19. This rig definitely caught my eye as a windsurfer of 30 years! Cool rig Richard! What kind of tack does it perform, upwind or downwind?

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