The Sailbuoy uses wind power for propulsion. Power for the electronics and actuators is provided by solar panels.Data communication and control is established in real-time using the Iridium satellite system through a user-friendly web interface. The technology  is commercially available through Offshore Sensing AS.

The Sailbuoy offers the capabilities of an unmanned surface vehicle which can be used as a new generation system for in-situ near-surface data collection at sea.

Key features

  • Long endurance - capable of navigating for several months at sea
  • Modular payload accommodating a large variety of sensors
  • Real-time remote desktop piloting
  • A compact, robust vessel
  • User friendly in deployment, recovery and control
  • Presents little risk to exiting installations and vessels.


The power budget is an important issue for autonomous vessels. Power is used for navigation (autopilot and actuators) and to power sensors, dataloggers and communication.  The Sailbuoy is designed to use very little power. The internal autopilot battery pack holds enough energy to navigate for 6 months without charging. Not being dependent on solar power for navigation, the Sailbuoy is an attractive platform for high latitudes where solar power is limited. To conserve energy the sensor payload can be in a low power state until the Sailbuoy arrives at the area of interest or until the payload batteries are recharged by the solar panels. This is a unique feature not found on other autonomous vessels.
Deployment and recovery can be costly if one is dependent on vessels with certain criteria. The Sailbuoy is made to be easy to deploy and recover. Just switch it on and put it in the water. Almost any vessel can be used to deploy it. We have deployed and retrieved the Sailbuoy using Zodiacs and fishing boats to large offshore vessels. Often the deployment and recovery has been performed by personnel not familiar with the Sailbuoy.
One of the big strengths of the Sailbuoys vehicle's design is that it is designed not to damage or get caught up in equipment or other objects at sea. It does not get caught in floating debris, moorings or other mechanical structures. This is important since equipment offshore can be very expensive to replace and deploy. One does not want a USV to add risk to existing infrastructure.

The sea surface is a harsh environment, with many mechanical stresses, corrosion and wear. An unmanned surface vehicle has to withstand this environment for long periods of time. The Sailbuoy is designed and tested to withstand the environmental stresses of the North sea, cold, severe weather and little sunlight during the winter. Our extensive testing in these conditions has shown us that robustness is vital for a surface vessel to withstand months at sea. The Sailbuoy navigates satisfactorily in harsh environmental conditions and high sea state with impeccable performance. It tolerates obstacles and ice to some degree.

The SailBuoy can be used for a wide variety of ocean applications. From measuring ocean and atmospheric parameters to tracking oil spills or acting as a communication relay station for subsea instrumentation.


Scientific applications
  • Climate Science
  • Oceanography
  • Meteorology
  • Algae tracking
  • Wave measurement              
Industrial applications
  • Emission Monitoring
  • Fisheries Management
  • Aquaculture
  • Visual Inspection
  • Subsea Communication
  • Transportation
  • Wave measurement
  • Oceanography
  • Meteorology

The original idea for the Sailbuoy was conceived in 2005. As a producer of drifting buoys the limitations of these was that they drifted out of the area of interest quite fast which limited their usefulness and operational time.The idea was to design an instrument platform that wasn't affected as much by the wind,waves and currents. This led to development of the sailbuoy. After testing the idea in different configurations the Sailbuoy was in 2009 ready for field testing.A number of tests, both inshore and offshore, have been conducted to improve the design and to qualify the vehicle. Some of these tests are presented under Missions.



The Sailbuoy is a wind driven platform and behaves much like a sailboat. There are however some critical differences that make it suited for autonomous operation. Batteries and solar panels are used to power the onboard electronics and actuators. When navigating, the Sailbuoy sails much like a traditional sailing boat, tacking to make headway against the wind and to approach the user defined waypoint.


The SailBuoy is a configurable offshore sensor platform designed to support a wide variety of instrumentation payloads. It can keep station or travel from point to point. Data is transmitted to and from shore in real time via satellite.

The SailBuoy uses the Iridium satellite system for communicating measured parameters and diagnostics. Since Iridium is a 2 way communication system, commands such as new waypoints, tracks and sensor parameters can be sent to the vessel underway.

Initially designed for oceanographic and meteorological instrumentation it is a sailing vessel designed for long term autonomous operation.


  • Length: 2.0 m
  • Displacement: ~60 kg
  • Payload: ~15 kg / 60 dm3
  • Average speed: 1-2 knots
  • Navigable wind speed range: 2 - 20 m/s
  • Survivability in all weather conditions
  • Maximum mission duration: 12 months
  • Global 2 way satellite communication

To control the Sailbuoy access to a website is given. There you can update waypoints and download data from the Sailbuoy. Also here user friendliness has been a priority. Experience has shown that most of the time used, goes towards monitoring the progress of the Sailbuoy during the mission. The website is also adapted to mobile phone usage. Here the operator can log in to control and monitor the Sailbuoy's progress. The payload communication also uses the same interface for control and data retrieval.

We are very exited about this product, and we are working hard to keep the user experience as agreeable as possible. Below is a video showing to which lengths we go to ensure that the user gets the information they need, when they need it, with no surprises.