10 Fastest Growing Robotics Companies 2019

Redefining and Revolutionizing Ocean Data Collection: Saildrone


Saildrone designs and manufactures wind and solar-powered autonomous surface vehicles called Saildrones, which make cost-effective ocean data collection possible at scale. It is building the world's largest high-resolution ocean datasets by working with governments and private companies around the globe.

Saildrone's patented wing technology was born from 10 years of R&D in pursuit of the land speed record. The company is headquartered in Alameda, CA and is backed by Horizons Ventures, Social Capital, Lux Capital, The Impact Fund (formerly Capricorn Investment Group), Exor Seeds, and The Schmidt Family Foundation.

Saildrone is headquartered in Alameda, CA, in a former Naval Air station hangar with direct access to the waters of San Francisco Bay.


A saildrone is an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) that combines wind-powered propulsion technology and solar-powered meteorological and oceanographic sensors to perform autonomous long-range data collection missions in the harshest ocean environments. Saildrone missions are executed as a fully managed service from start to finish: It handles the transport of the saildrone to the area of operations, launches and retrieves the USV, and delivers high-resolution data in real-time and raw data post-mission.

  • Wind propulsion - Saildrone’s patented propulsion system is the result of a 10-year research effort in high-performance landsailing and consists of a tall, hard wing, a longitudinal spar, and a vertical tail. A trim-tab on the tail adjusts the wing angle to the wind, similar to the way an elevator trim tab controls the pitch of an aircraft.
  • Long endurance - The Saildrone wing technology enables a mission duration of up to 12 months. Mission duration is only limited by bio-fouling (marine growth on the hull) in the tropics and mid-latitudes or the availability of light and icy conditions in high latitudes. An annual maintenance guarantees optimal data quality.
  • Dimensions - A Saildrone USV is significantly larger than it appears: Each vehicle consists of a narrow seven-meter-long hull, a five-meter-tall wing, and a keel with a 2.5-meter draft. Saildrone USVs weigh approximately 750 kilograms and can be launched and recovered from a dock.
  • Speed - Saildrone USVs travel at an average speed of two to three knots and can reach top speeds above eight knots (nine miles per hour). Sailing 100 kilometers per day on average, these USVs can reach most ocean locations within 30 days from the closest shore and cover large survey areas.
  • Autonomy - Saildrone USVs are under the constant supervision of a human pilot via satellite and navigate autonomously from prescribed waypoint to waypoint, accounting for wind and currents, while staying within a user-defined safety corridor.
  • Safety at sea - To further ensure safe operation, each USV is equipped with an automatic identification system (AIS) transceiver, navigation lights, radar reflector, high visibility wing colors, and four onboard cameras. Safety is a top priority, and Saildrone is proud of its strong track record of safe operations.

Unique Ocean Data Service to Keep You in Control

Saildrone's Mission-as-a-Service provides users with a dedicated fleet of USVs to cost-effectively collect scientifically validated oceanic and atmospheric observations over extensive areas and extended periods of time. A single mission can cover tens of thousands of miles and last up to 12 months. Each vehicle follows a user-defined mission plan, navigating autonomously from waypoint to waypoint without requiring any ship time.

The Saildrone core sensor suite can be enhanced with optional specialized sensors to address a wide variety of mission objectives.

A Fully Managed Mission Service

Saildrone handles missions as a fully managed service from launch and transit to the area of operations to final delivery of high-resolution data.The vehicles themselves are not for sale. Instead, Saildrone offers mission data delivery through a mission-as-a-service model for a fixed daily rate without burdening the user with the cost of vehicle manufacturing—users stay focused on scientific data processing while remaining in control of their mission. Saildrone operates a 24/7 mission control at the headquarters in Alameda, CA, where trained operators handle every aspect of mission management, from local permitting to route setting, advanced weather forecasting, and issue troubleshooting—all while in constant communication with its users.

Saildrone provides real-time tracking, data access, and control of a user’s fleet via a secure web portal with advanced collaboration features. The Saildrone mission portal provides a variety of tools—mission-specific overlays of satellite products, model GRIB files, and ingestion of other assets such as ships, buoys, tagged animals, or other autonomous platforms—for on-the-fly mission analysis. The users can also update the route planning of any mission with point-and-click ease using precise waypoint management. The routes can be edited collaboratively, saved in libraries, and sent to mission control for vehicle re-tasking.In addition to daily data distribution in NetCDF format, any real-time data can is easily exported in a variety of formats for on the fly for offline analysis in popular tools such as MATLAB or R.

Ocean Data at Your Fingertips

Saildrone offers high resolution ocean data sets including planetary meteorological, oceanographic, bathymetric and acoustic data. Saildrone’s fleet of USVs has traveled over 500,000 nautical miles, carrying payloads of atmospheric and oceanographic sensors. The result is a series of large-scale datasets describing parts of the world’s oceans that have never been covered in such detail.

Reliable and Simple Global Weather Forecast

Saildrone Forecast is an accurate, attractive, easy-to-use global forecast tool designed for outdoor athletes and adventurers. Users can get all the information they need so that they can train smarter and have better adventures.

  • Micro-forecast accuracy - Saildrone offers reliable, precise forecasts with HD weather; based on data trusted by elite athletes and scientists. Users can see real-time, minute-by-minute forecasts for current and future conditions.
  • Unmatched technology - Its fleet of saildrones continuously crisscrosses the planet collecting atmospheric and oceanographic data to power its forecast model unmatched by traditional inputs.
  • Simple, yet powerful design - From quick snapshots to detailed graphs and beautiful maps, the user stays in control. It offers the flexibility to quickly check the day’s forecast or dive deep into the advanced settings to customize how one sees the world.
  • Perform your best - Weather anything with activity-based insights. It helps users know the best time and place for adventures from sea to summit so that they can gear up and get out with confidence.

Knowing the Thought Leaders

Richard Jenkins, CEO:

“We believe that better inputs in planetary models will yield better outputs, and the new insights gained in weather forecasting, carbon cycling, global fishing, and climate change will have a tremendous impact on humanity.”