The Celtic Sea, located off the south coast of Ireland, is a curious place; home to common dolphins, harbor porpoises, fin whales and a surprising number of marine predators, but it has yet to be designated a protected Marine Conservation Zone. In the hopes of learning more about this diverse and mysterious region, an unmanned solar and wind-powered vehicle, the C-Enduro, known more familiarly as Thomas, is spending a month surveying the area with GoPro cameras, meteorological equipment and marine mammal acoustic detectors. And once Thomas has spent a month out in the Celtic Deep it will return with a wealth of information that will assist oceanographers in not only better understanding the area, but also in developing a plan for protecting the Celtic Deep.
The C-Enduro was built by ASV Unmanned Marine Systems, and the project to survey the Celtic Deep area is being carried out through a partnership of the World Wildlife Fund and the UK’s National Oceanography Center. The vessel itself if a 350kg (772lb) catamaran that is powered primarily by solar and wind, with a back up diesel engine, and two brushless motors provide a maximum speed of 7 knots (13 km/h or 8 mph). While it is an autonomous vehicle, with the ability to avoid collisions and right itself should it capsize, ASV will be controlling some of Thomas’s movements via satellite.
While out in the Celtic Deep, Thomas will work in tandem with an underwater Slocum Glider, and both vehicles will be equipped to measure the temperature and salinity of the water, while acoustic pingers will register fish shoals and plankton. Additionally, ASV notes, Thomas will be equipped with “GoPro cameras to capture images of marine life and litter, and acoustic monitors to detect clicks and whistles from echo locating marine mammals.”
Images courtesy ASV