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Compact and modular autonomous surface vehicle for water research: The Naval Operating Research Drone Assessing Climate Change (NORDACC)

New publication by Carlson DF, Akbulut S, Rasmussen JF, Hestbech CS, Andersen MH, Melvad C.


Research, monitoring, and management of marine and aquatic ecosystems often require surface water samples to measure biogeochemical and optical parameters. Traditional sampling with a boat and several personnel onboard can be labor-intensive and safety requirements limit sampling activities in high-risk environments. This paper describes the Naval Operating Research Drone Assessing Climate Change (NORDACC). NORDACC is an open source, light-weight, and portable autonomous surface vehicle that can acquire surface water samples while also measuring sea surface temperature and salinity for the duration of its deployment. NORDACC is ideal for operations in remote areas where resources and personnel are limited. Two sample bottles, each one liter in volume, can be filled, either at pre-programmed sampling stations or manually, using the remote control. A trimaran design provides buoyancy and stability, with hulls constructed of vacuum-formed acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic. NORDACC can navigate autonomously between waypoints and features first person view capabilities for enhanced situational awareness. NORDACC’s performance was validated in Aarhus Bay, Denmark, collecting multiple surface water samples in winds in excess of 8 ms−1 and steep, choppy waves.