Unmanned vessels deployed for Alaska ocean research

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Federal and private researchers are using a new tool to gather information about marine mammals and fish in the Bering Sea off Alaska’s west coast.

Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are using unmanned “autonomous sailing vessels” to gather information on endangered North Pacific right whales, fur seals and ocean waters.

The unmanned vessels were developed by Saildrone Inc., a California company.

Chris Sabine (suh-BEYEN), director of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, says they look like 20-foot outrigger canoes with an airplane wing jutting up vertically.

They operate on solar and wind power and can carry 200 pounds of instruments.

They hold great appeal for researchers because they’re far cheaper than research ships and they can operate in dangerous conditions of the North Pacific.