Open Ocean Robotics Is Helping the Environment Using Ocean Drones

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Countless researchers are working together to use new technology to save the environment. One such organization is Open Ocean Robotics that is actively working to develop drones that can collect valuable environmental data in real-time.

The start-up based in British Columbia won a $100,000 grant in a Spring Impact Investor Challenge, a most-promising start-up award from the National Community for Angels, Incubators, and Accelerators, and became a finalist in a New Ventures BC Competition. Their valuable work is gaining the attention of both the public and private sectors. 

And, there’s no sign of stopping their critical work for the planet. 

The company developed an ocean drone outfitted with various sensors that can gather environmental data. It is equipped with 360-degree cameras and smart software known as AIS and remote-sensing LIDAR. The device is powered using solar cells and can potentially stay in open waters for up to a year while continuously collecting data. It uses a satellite network to send information in real-time. 

The ability of the ocean drone to stay in the ocean for an extended amount of time results in very precise data, including year-round weather conditions and trends. It also helps create safer routes for ships, which in turn reduces fuel usage and decreases greenhouse gas emissions. 

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The team is continuously testing prototypes that will eventually be deployed in various parts of the world. They have just finished testing in the Pacific Ocean near Victoria, British Columbia. Currently, the drone successfully concluded a 54-hour, non-stop testing where it reached 74 kilometers. The device withstood the rainy days of November and maintained an 85 percent battery capacity. 

According to Julie Angus, CEO of Open Ocean Robotics, they are planning to conduct more open ocean trials during winter storms where the drone can encounter waves that are 50 feet or larger. The team is planning to test the self-righting functionalities when it capsizes during these conditions. While tests under controlled environments are successful, the group is excited to test the ocean drone in extreme conditions. 

The drone has proven capable of many functionalities in past experiments. It can go on voyages while being controlled remotely or autonomously. The drone can go on missions for multiple data while accurately collecting oceanographic data and sending them through satellite and cellular communication networks. 

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In 2020, the company is set to take the ocean drone on two major projects. Open Ocean Robotics has tied up with the Canadian Coast Guard to map the seafloor in shallow waters. This is critical to further understanding of the oceans and identifying safe navigational areas. The venture will help experts expand their understanding of the world’s oceans. To date, only 20 percent of the planet’s waters are correctly mapped. In some areas like the Canadian Arctic, only one percent of the ocean is mapped using modern-day tools. 

The company is also working with the Oceans and Fisheries Canada to collect data on weather, temperatures, and ocean currents. 

The team is planning to take on more clients after the conclusion of the two projects. The start-up company is registered as a data service company. They design and develop missions to collect desired data, which are mostly environmental and ocean information using their prototype drones. These data are then analyzed to derive insights for various services.