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NOAA announces $7.5 million in uncrewed marine system public-private partnerships

A bright orange uncrewed Saildrone surface vehicle on the water

The NOAA Uncrewed Systems Operations Center has selected nine projects that use private-sector operated uncrewed marine systems in an innovative partnership to collect data for NOAA missions. In total, $7.5 million will be allocated in fiscal year 2023.

Uncrewed systems can serve a unique role as companion to traditional crewed methods and allow NOAA to efficiently gather data that was not always accessible before.

Uncrewed systems are being tested and used across the agency's mission areas, including hurricane intensity forecasting, fishery surveys, ocean exploration, and hydrographic surveys. These nine projects will leverage capabilities from the private sector, and help NOAA to advance the science that underpins the products we provide to the nation.

The projects were submitted through NOAA’s internal request for proposals and the agency received 17 proposals totalling $36.4 million. The proposals were reviewed by subject matter experts and a panel representing NOAA’s diverse mission areas. They selected the following projects:

Project: Observing Hurricanes Using Uncrewed Surface Vehicles
Region: East Coast, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean
Funding: $2,500,000
NOAA Project Lead: NOAA Research

Project: Instrument Validation and Calibration on Uncrewed Surface Vehicles for Broad Meteorological and Oceanographic Observations
Region: West Coast
Funding: $482,019
NOAA Project Lead: NOAA Research

Project: Uncrewed Surface Vehicles Integrated within the Tropical Pacific Observing System
Region: Tropical Pacific
Funding: $521,716
NOAA Project Lead: NOAA Research

Project: Gulf of Maine Seafloor Mapping to Inform Wind Energy Planning, Habitat Characterization, and Fisheries Management
Region: Gulf of Maine
Funding: $1,119,162
NOAA Project Lead: NOAA Fisheries and National Ocean Service

Project: Expansion of Planned Hydrographic Survey Projects with Uncrewed Marine Systems
Region: Alaska
Funding: $1,176,811
NOAA Project Lead: National Ocean Service

Project: Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Services for Scallop Survey in Wind Energy Areas
Region: New England
Funding: $191,300
NOAA Project Lead: NOAA Fisheries

Project: Surveying Coral Reef Benthic Habitat with Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Technology
Region: Hawai`i and Florida Keys
Funding: $128,597
NOAA Project Lead: NOAA Fisheries

Project: Assessing Ecosystem Productivity in Support of Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management in the Hawaiian Islands
Region: Hawai`i
Funding: $381,880
NOAA Project Lead: NOAA Fisheries

Project: Operational Use of Uncrewed Marine Systems for Providing Observations at a National Data Buoy Center Buoy Location in a National Marine Sanctuary
Region: West Coast
Funding: $991,015
NOAA Project Lead: National Weather Service

“Uncrewed systems are an increasingly important tool to support NOAA’s mission of understanding and predicting changes in climate, weather, the ocean and coasts, and conserving and managing coastal and marine ecosystems and resources,” said NOAA Corps Captain William Mowitt, director of the NOAA Uncrewed Systems Operations Center. “By partnering with the private sector in this new way, we can not only collect data more efficiently, but also support innovation and America’s new blue economy.”

While NOAA principal investigators will lead the project, each project will partner with a private sector company. Through these public-private partnerships, NOAA will advance its observational capabilities. Following the completion of each project, NOAA will evaluate the value of using uncrewed systems as part of similar projects in the future.