PLOCAN’s fleet of autonomous marine vehicles increases its operational activity by 30% in 2023

PLOCAN’s fleet of autonomous ocean vehicles has carried out multiple scientific, technical and training missions in 2023, totaling 242 days sea-operations, with a navigation record of 3,200 nautical miles, among which highlight deployments and operations conduced in the Azores, Madeira, Lisbon, the island of La Palma and in the North and South strip of the Canary Archipelago waters, overall increasing its operational activity by 30 percent compared to the previous year.

The missions have been coordinated from the Underwater Vehicles, Instruments and Machines (VIMAS) area in fourteen main operations that have allowed the gather of nearly three million data related to essential physical and biogeochemical climatic variables of an oceanographic and meteorological nature, through the operation of five different technologies for both water column profiling and autonomous surface vehicles: Seaglider, Slocum, SeaExplorer, WaveGlider and Sailbuoy.

The operations of PLOCAN’s fleet of autonomous ocean vehicles have covered local, national and international areas in response to initiatives and requests from infrastructure users with needs for observing the marine environment through state-of-the-art unmanned mobile devices, serving its performance in safety, reliability and environmental sustainability.

The activities carried out have led a cooperation with the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, sharing operational and logistical resources based on specific needs raised. In particular, the activity in the PLOCAN Integrated Observatory and surrounding areas in 2023 has involved undertaking scientific-technical missions of diverse nature and scope within the framework of international programs and projects (EuroSea, GROOM-RI, MARCET-II, DELTA, ESTOC Ocean Time Series Station and Mission Atlantic), in some cases of special relevance and uniqueness.

Among the scientific missions carried out, transnational accesses higlights within the framework of the FLUCARO, iFADO and Mission Atlantic projects, in response to requests from the Institute of Oceanography and Global Change (IOCAG) of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere (IPMA) and the Center for Marine Sciences and Technologies (MARUM) of the University of Bremen (UB).

PLOCAN, as gliderport infrastructure, is a member of leading European initiatives such as EGO, the Global Ocean Observing System (EuroGOOS), OceanGliders (World Glider Program of the Global Ocean Observing System, GOOS) or the European Multidisciplinary Deep Ocean Observatory (EMSO).

In these European initiatives, PLOCAN contributes to the analysis and application of international protocols and standards for the operation and provision of services with autonomous ocean monitoring platforms, as well as the management and dissemination of the data gathered. In this context, the update and improvement of capabilities undertaken in 2023 through the procurement for a new surface glider (USV) stands out, intended to cover specific observing needs through its specific configuration of meteorological, biogeochemical and acoustic sensors.

PLOCAN’s leadership in coordinating the European Glider Task Team within the framework of the EuroGOOS initiative has continued throughout the 2023 year. At the national level, PLOCAN continues to contribute to two groups of reference work: the one on uncrewed navigation led by the General Directorate of the Merchant Marine (DGMM), and the one on ocean-gliders/USV acting as coordinator in partnership with AZTI, SOCIB, IEO/CSIC and ULPGC.

XIII Glider School edition

The VIMAS area organized the 13th edition of the Glider School, a highly specialized training initiative promoted by PLOCAN and which brought together students and collaborators from sixteen countries from four continents, together with the main global manufacturers of commercial technologies, continuing its commitment as international benchmark forum for high-level training in marine ocean observation technologies.

To date, the Glider School has trained 205 students from 36 countries (five continents), with the direct involvement of 21 companies and 18 leading institutions in the sector, which has allowed us to address new synergies of diverse nature and scope in sciences, technologies and marine-maritime services at national, European and international level, which highlights once again the strategic role that Unique Scientific-Technical Infrastructures (ICTS) play within the framework of technological development and provision of operational services through their highly-specialized capabilities.

Through the VIMAS installation, during the 2023 year PLOCAN has organized and/or joined 16 international and national forums related to scientific-technological topics such as robotics, uncrewed navigation, governance and management of marine observation through of research and training infrastructures, among others.

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