A new technology aims to help understand and protect marine mammals while enabling the ever-growing demand for offshore energy.
The new acoustic technology is the work of uncrewed surface vehicles and autonomous ocean data collection leader Saildrone.
The company deployed two of its USVs off the coast of Massachusetts. The units were equipped with proprietary acoustic listening technology and were listening for North Atlantic right whales and other marine mammals. During the two-week deployment period, the drones recorded various marine mammal vocalizations.
Researchers from RPS, a company that monitors protected species, hope to use the data to understand better the effects offshore energy production has on marine mammals’ behavior and migration patterns.
According to RPS Team Leader of US Offshore Renewables Stephanie Miles:
“The global development of offshore wind is key to moving away from traditional, non-renewable power generation, especially fossil fuels. But development must not negatively impact the marine mammals that share the habitat. Saildrone and RPS are working together to provide a unique, flexible, and adaptable solution to marine mammal monitoring of large areas over significant time periods, using smart tools to reduce personnel in the field but without decreasing the monitoring and mitigation provided to protect our marine animal neighbors.”
While Saildrone Chief Technology Officer Brian Hernacki added:
“This milestone achievement represents a significant step forward in our ability to study and protect whales and other marine mammals. Saildrone’s passive acoustic technology allows us to gather vital information in a non-invasive and cost-effective manner, and combined with the mobility and endurance of our uncrewed platforms, provides unprecedented monitoring capability, facilitating research, conservation, and commercial enterprise.”
The project is supported by a significant award from the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium (NOWRDC) to facilitate offshore wind’s coexistence with wildlife and other ocean users and support other industry initiatives.