The SLU Aqua Sailor drone

Last changed: 17 April 2023
SLU Aqua Sailor in the water. It looks like a windsurfing board. On its sail is the SLU logo, a swedish flag and  the text Keep clear and

SLU Aqua Sailor is an aquatic unmanned ocean vehicle missioned to survey the sea and collect environmental data used in research and monitoring programmes. The autonomous drone has a wide range of benefits compared to traditional ship-based data collection: it has minimal environmental impact, runs quietly, operates in all weathers and offers a smart and gentle data collection.

SLU Aqua Sailor is used in both research and environmental monitoring and offers a cheap and interference-free method for data survey.

Equipped with specially designed acoustic sensors, the unmanned SLU Aqua Sailor will measure the amount of fish and plankton thanks to new algorithms. The sensors reduce the need for traditional monitoring of fish and provides a more gentle sampling. With SLU Aqua Sailor, information on ocean conditions such as salinity and water temperature, are also measured, and via GPS researchers can continuously keep track of the location of the drone.

The SLU Aqua Sailor drone was built in Norway and was purchased by the Department of Aquatic Resources in the autumn of 2018, with partial funding from the Nordic Council of Ministers. SLU Aqua Sailor is stationed at the Institute of Marine Research in Lysekil.

SLU Aqua Sailor ramps up research expedition 2020

During the late spring and summer of 2020, the SLU Aqua Sailor drone sails between the great Swedish islands of Öland and Gotland and collects data on the amount of fish and zooplankton. The drone survey partly takes place at the same time as the fisheries survey Sprat Acoustic Survey (Spras). Spras collects information on herring and sprat in the Baltic Sea, and is carried out with the research vessel R/V Svea. By matching data from Spras with data from the sailing drone, the researchers hope to gain better knowledge of how the Baltic Sea ecosystem works.

Read  news about the project (2020-04-28): Expedition med "extra allt" vidgar förståelsen för Östersjöns ekosystem

In 2019, SLU Aqua Sailor was used around the islands Karlsöarna in the Baltic Sea during 42 days between April and July 2019. The same survey took place In 2020 and 2021.


Mapping of fish in the Kattegat 2018

On its first trip in December 2018, SLU Aqua Sailor sailed over 600 km in the North Sea in the areas around Lilla Middelgrund and Fladen in the Kattegat Sea. Registered data will be used to improve the protection of the Kattegat's unique habitats.

SLU Aqua Sailor has a camera on board. This video shows pictures from the sailing in the Kattegat.

Read news about the project (2018-12-17): Seglande drönare kartlägger Kattegatts fiskbestånd >> 


Jonas Hentati Sundberg, Researcher
Department of Aquatic Resources, Institute of Marine Research, SLU, +46 10 478 40 70, +46 739-38 79 69