Harmful algae bloom monitoring via a sustainable, sail-powered mobile platform for in-land and coastal monitoring

Jordon S. Beckler 1*, Ethan Arutunian 2, Robert D. Currier 3, Eric Milbrandt 4, Scott Duncan 2

1 – Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University, United States,
2 – Navocean, United States,
3 – Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association, United States,
4 – Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, United States

Submitted to Journal: Frontiers in Marine Science
Specialty Section: Ocean Observation
Article type: Technology Report Article
Manuscript ID: 437032
Received on: 15 Nov 2018
Frontiers website link:


Harmful algae blooms (HAB) in coastal marine environments are increasing in number and duration, pressuring local resource managers to implement mitigation solutions to protect human and ecosystem health. However, insufficient spatial and temporal observations create uninformed management decisions. In order to better detect and map blooms, as well as the environmental conditions responsible for their formation, long-term, unattended observation platforms are desired. In this article, we describe a new cost-efficient, autonomous, mobile platform capable of accepting several sensors that can be used to monitor harmful algae blooms in near real-time. The Navocean autonomous sail-powered surface vehicle is deployable by a single person from shore, capable of waypoint navigation in shallow and deep waters, and powered completely by renewable energy. We present results from three surveys of the Florida Red Tide harmful algae bloom (Karenia brevis) of 2017-2018. The vessel made significant progress towards waypoints regardless of wind conditions while underway chl. a measurements revealed HAB bloom patches and CDOM and turbidity provided environmental contextual information. While the autonomous sailboat directly adds to our HAB monitoring capabilities, the boat can also help to ground-truth and thus improve satellite monitoring of HABs. Finally, several other pending and future use cases for coastal and inland monitoring are discussed. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a sail-driven vessel used for coastal HAB monitoring.

Full Manuscript Here