Two autonomous surface vehicles Saildrone, equipped with a set of meteorological and oceanographic sensors on board, have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar after their first navigation through the East Atlantic, within the framework of the international initiative “From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean” (ATL2MED) that coordinates the European Research Infrastructure of the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS-RI) with ten European research institutions, including PLOCAN.
The University of Cadiz, with its oceanographic vessel UCADIZ, the Marine Hydrographic Institute and SASEMAR have participated in the crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar, which was led by PLOCAN as responsible for ATL2MED during the Atlantic stretch in Spanish waters.
The Saildrones which have been designed by the US company Saildrone Inc., are carrying out an international mission for scientific-technical purposes lasting six months between East-Central North Atlantic and the Western Mediterranean Sea. The main objectives are to evaluate Saildrone technology as a new autonomous vehicle approach for ocean observation, and compare the quality of the measurements of the different oceanographic and meteorological parameters to be carried out during the mission, with special interest in CO2, with those measured by fixed observatories along the route, some of them with more than two decades of time series of measures.
The planned path “From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean” after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar is: East of the Iberian Peninsula, Southern France, Western Italy, Sicily, Eastern Italy and Trieste, where the mission is expected to end.
The Saildrone units, which can average navigation speeds between 3 and 5 knots depending on wind conditions, are remotely operated by Saildrone technicians.
ATL2MED is joined by key European marine research institutions, such as the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research (GEOMAR) and the Helmholtz Coastal Research Institute (HZG) from Germany; the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER), the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Oceanographic Laboratory of Villefranche (LOV), of France; the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) and the National Institute of Oceanography (OGS), from Italy; the Hydrographic Institute of Portugal (IH); the European Delegation of the Global Ocean Observation System (EuroGOOS), Belgium; the European Infrastructure of the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS-OTC) Finland; and PLOCAN; providing key technical-scientific infrastructures and reference ocean-observatories, which in the case of PLOCAN includes the test-site facility located in the East coast of Gran Canaria and its ocean-observatory ESTOC.