Ensuring the future of ocean health while realizing the potential of the Blue Economy will require an immense amount of ocean data – but ocean exploration has traditionally been expensive, dangerous and dirty. Ocean Aero has developed the world's first and only environmentally powered autonomous underwater and surface vehicle, the TRITON, that collects data above and below the surface of the ocean for more effective, affordable and abundant ocean exploration. We are excited to announce our recent investment in Ocean Aero to further the effort to observe and understand our ocean.
Deep Opportunity for Ocean Exploration
It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of the ocean to life on earth. Not only does the ocean offer renewable resources, enable the movement of people and goods around the world, and provide a crucial source of protein, but it is also Earth’s weather and climate regulator. The more we know about our ocean – its patterns, chemistry and potential – the more proactive we can be in protecting it and the planet it supports.
Despite its immeasurable value, our understanding of the ocean remains fairly limited – in fact, only 5 percent of the ocean has been explored by humans. One major challenge in ocean exploration is the cost. According to a UNESCO report, ocean research vessels accumulate charges ranging from $10,000 to more than $40,000 a day to operate. Ocean exploration is also risky. The deep ocean is characterized by extremely cold temperatures, zero visibility and incredibly high pressure. According to Dr. Genee Carl Feldman, an oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, it is sometimes easier to send people into space than to send them to the bottom of the ocean. Additionally, most existing exploration vessels use diesel fuels that add to ocean pollution. All of these obstacles have resulted in the maritime industry collecting data less frequently and paying more for it.
Eco-Friendly, Versatile Ocean Research
There is a vital opportunity to develop solutions that can help us understand and protect our oceans. Ocean Aero is focused on solving these ocean observation challenges by creating, manufacturing and distributing novel uncrewed ocean systems technologies. The company’s signature product, the TRITON, is the world’s first and only Autonomous Underwater and Surface Vehicle (AUSV). It is completely wind- and solar-powered, eliminating the need for polluting fuels and greatly improving battery life on extended and remote missions. Typically, ocean observation vehicles can only operate with a single modality but the TRITON can both sail and submerge for unparalleled ocean data collection. The vehicle can operate for months at sea without returning to land and costs a fraction of crewed vessels.
One of the main applications for the TRITON is science and research, and the vehicle can be outfitted with customizable payloads for a nearly unlimited array of research opportunities. The TRITON can perform ocean mapping (bathymetry), water chemistry testing, harmful algal blooms (HAB) monitoring, biodiversity assessments, eDNA sampling, protected species observations, coral reef ecosystem monitoring, ocean plastics detection, oil spill monitoring and a range of other research functions. The TRITON uses these tools to measure ocean acidification, conduct biomass surveys, collect meteorological data, promote cultural heritage, monitor vessel traffic and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, document violations and so much more.
In addition to research, the TRITON also has profound implications for the renewable energy industry. Data acquisition in the offshore energy industry has traditionally been limited to tethered ROVs and other cumbersome, expensive technologies. The company’s pre-packaged payloads cover 90 percent of the applications in the defense, research and offshore energy sectors, but the TRITON is versatile and designed to support custom payloads and customer-specific efforts.
The ocean is and will continue to be a crucial climate change solution with the right tools and management. The opportunity to harness the ocean’s capacity to sequester carbon is massive compared with land. The ocean already holds more carbon than any other part of the biosphere and has the potential to store far more. The TRITON can expand and refine our ability to measure the effectiveness of ocean carbon sequestration and other climate remediation efforts by providing best-in-class monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) capabilities.
Today the TRITON is providing a more affordable, more efficient and more creative ocean exploration solution than any other platform. We are proud to be partnering with Ocean Aero to monitor and measure the ocean so that we can more effectively manage and protect it.