Private and Public Marine Partnerships to Advance Ocean Observation: A
Saildrone-NOAA/PMEL Case Study
Tikahtnu Ballroom C
Name of Convener/Organizer/Speaker: Heather Tabisola, NOAA PMEL
Email Contact of Organizer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Session Format: Panel
This special session will address how private-public partnerships can successfully and
efficiently advance global ocean observation by leveraging government resources with new and
emerging technologies from private companies. It will provide a chance to share and discuss the practical application behind Saildrone Inc. and NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab’s successful partnership. From equipment integration to data pipeline to adaptive sampling; the panel will discuss the best practice approach for public-private partnership honed over the last several years, including a division of labor that allows both parties to bring their best to the table, and the value of trust built by working on in-depth projects.
Saildrone USVs (Unmanned Surface Vessels) combine sail-powered vehicle technology with solar-powered meteorological and oceanographic sensors for ocean data collection. In total, Saildrone USVs have covered more than 70,000 nautical miles on active missions. Saildrone’s technology is designed to supplement ship and mooring data to meet the demand for longer, more economical deployments, real-time data assessment, and adaptive missions. Deployed directly dockside, the USVs navigate autonomously to the area of interest, operate for extended periods in open seas, gather meteorological, oceanographic and acoustic data simultaneously, and transmit this information via satellite.
The PMEL and Saildrone Inc. engineering collaboration began in the Spring of 2014 with some meetings and site visits to explore development of an instrumented USV for NOAA’s needs. The results of these meetings were a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement that outlined the development and what each organization will be responsible for. Some of the key aspects of this partnership are an alignment of long term goals with practical deliverables during the development process and a good meshing of group cultures. Both groups also understand that a true partnership in engineering development goes beyond just a contract and includes free and open communication, shared risk-taking and that the relationship goes beyond just a contractual understanding. The team set an ambitious project goal of instrumenting, testing, and deploying a novel USV in the US Arctic within 18 months, and successfully completed the first field mission in 2015. Over the past two and half years, Saildrone has continued to work with NOAA/PMEL to validate the platform’s ability to gather data that meets NOAA/PMEL climate quality standards.
This case study demonstrates that private companies working with federal labs have the ability to provide ‘more science at a lower cost.’ This model can dramatically expand NOAA’s mission capabilities in complex and remote regions like Alaska and the tropical Pacific and improve public access to ocean data.
Panelists will include representatives from Saildrone Inc., NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, and NOAA leadership.
Moderator: Craig McLean, Acting Chief Scientist, NOAA