Saildrone is an innovative ocean research company that designs and deploys unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) equipped with advanced sensors and instrumentation to collect oceanographic data. Founded in 2012 by Richard Jenkins, Saildrone’s mission is to revolutionize the way ocean data is gathered and utilized, providing valuable insights into climate change, marine ecosystems, weather patterns, and more. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the history of Saildrone, its technology, applications, partnerships, and the impact of its work on ocean science and environmental monitoring.

1. History and Founding Vision

Saildrone was founded by Richard Jenkins, a former NASA engineer and record-setting sailor, with the vision of harnessing the power of wind and solar energy to revolutionize ocean research. Inspired by his experiences sailing solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Jenkins recognized the potential of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) to gather data in remote and challenging marine environments. He founded Saildrone with the goal of developing autonomous sailing drones capable of collecting high-quality oceanographic data at a fraction of the cost of traditional research vessels.

2. Technology and Innovation

Saildrone’s unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) are equipped with a wide range of sensors and instrumentation to measure various oceanographic parameters, including temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, and carbon dioxide levels. The drones are powered by a combination of wind and solar energy, utilizing a patented sail-wing design to harness wind power for propulsion and solar panels to generate electricity for onboard instruments and communication systems. This innovative technology allows Saildrone drones to operate autonomously for extended periods, covering vast distances and collecting data in remote and inaccessible regions of the ocean.

3. Applications in Ocean Research

Saildrone drones have numerous applications in ocean research, including climate monitoring, marine biology, fisheries management, weather forecasting, and oceanographic research. The data collected by Saildrone drones provides valuable insights into ocean dynamics, ecosystem health, and the impacts of climate change on marine environments. Saildrone drones are used by government agencies, research institutions, and commercial organizations around the world to study phenomena such as ocean currents, sea surface temperature, marine biodiversity, and carbon cycling, contributing to our understanding of the Earth’s oceans and their role in the global climate system.

4. Versatility and Flexibility

One of the key advantages of Saildrone drones is their versatility and flexibility in mission deployment. Saildrone drones can be rapidly deployed from shore or launched from research vessels, allowing researchers to collect data in remote or inaccessible areas of the ocean where traditional research ships cannot reach. The drones are capable of operating in a wide range of environmental conditions, from calm seas to high winds and rough seas, making them suitable for various research applications and field campaigns. Additionally, Saildrone drones can be equipped with custom sensors and payloads to address specific research objectives and data requirements.

5. Partnerships and Collaborations

Saildrone collaborates with a diverse range of partners, including government agencies, research institutions, non-profit organizations, and commercial entities, to advance ocean research and environmental monitoring efforts. The company partners with organizations such as NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), NASA, the United Nations, and academic institutions worldwide to deploy Saildrone drones for research projects and field campaigns. Saildrone also works with industry partners in sectors such as fisheries, oil and gas, and renewable energy to develop tailored solutions for environmental monitoring, resource management, and regulatory compliance.

6. Impact on Climate Science

Saildrone drones are making significant contributions to climate science by providing high-resolution, real-time data on key oceanic and atmospheric parameters. The data collected by Saildrone drones is used to improve climate models, monitor changes in ocean circulation and heat distribution, and assess the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Saildrone drones have been deployed in regions such as the Arctic, the Southern Ocean, and the equatorial Pacific to study phenomena such as sea ice melt, ocean acidification, and coral reef bleaching, helping scientists better understand the complex interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere.

7. Environmental Monitoring and Conservation

Saildrone drones play a critical role in environmental monitoring and conservation efforts by providing data on marine habitats, biodiversity, and ecosystem health. The drones are used to study marine mammal populations, track migratory patterns of marine species, and monitor the impacts of human activities such as shipping, fishing, and pollution on marine ecosystems. Saildrone drones are also used to monitor protected areas such as marine sanctuaries and marine reserves, providing valuable information to policymakers, resource managers, and conservation organizations to inform decision-making and conservation efforts.

8. Future Directions and Innovations

Looking ahead, Saildrone is focused on expanding its fleet of autonomous sailing drones and advancing its technology to address new challenges and opportunities in ocean research and environmental monitoring. The company is exploring innovations such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced sensor technology to enhance the capabilities of its drones and improve data collection and analysis. Saildrone is also working on developing new applications for its technology, such as oceanographic research, disaster response, and maritime surveillance, to further extend the reach and impact of its work.

9. Data Accessibility and Open Science

Saildrone is committed to open science and data accessibility, making the oceanographic data collected by its drones freely available to researchers, policymakers, and the public through its data portal. By providing access to high-quality, real-time ocean data, Saildrone aims to facilitate collaboration, innovation, and knowledge exchange within the scientific community. Researchers can access a wide range of data products, including sea surface temperature, ocean currents, carbon dioxide levels, and more, collected by Saildrone drones from various regions of the world’s oceans. This open-access approach enables researchers to conduct interdisciplinary studies, compare datasets, and address pressing scientific questions related to oceanography and climate science.

10. Global Reach and Impact

Saildrone’s autonomous sailing drones have a global reach and impact, operating in oceans and seas around the world to collect data on a wide range of oceanographic phenomena. From the Arctic to the Antarctic, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, Saildrone drones are deployed in diverse environments to study ocean dynamics, climate variability, marine biodiversity, and more. The data collected by Saildrone drones contributes to scientific research, informs policy decisions, and supports environmental monitoring efforts worldwide. Saildrone’s global network of partners and collaborators enables the company to address pressing challenges such as climate change, ocean acidification, and marine conservation on a global scale, driving positive change and advancing our understanding of the Earth’s oceans.


In conclusion, Saildrone is a pioneering ocean research company that is revolutionizing the way we study and monitor the Earth’s oceans. With its innovative technology, versatile platform, and collaborative approach, Saildrone is providing valuable insights into ocean dynamics, climate change, marine biodiversity, and more. By partnering with governments, research institutions, and industry partners around the world, Saildrone is advancing our understanding of the oceans and their role in the global climate system. As the field of oceanography continues to evolve, Saildrone remains at the forefront of innovation, driving progress and shaping the future of ocean research and environmental monitoring.