New Unmanned Vessels Being Tested In Scilly

One of the underwater gliders found on Bryher last year

One of the underwater gliders found on Bryher last year

You could see some unusual marine vessels around St Mary’s from today. Scilly is being used as the test site for a series of new, unmanned craft, which can monitor sea conditions hundreds of miles from the coast.

Last year, two underwater ‘gliders’ belonging to the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton spent two months surveying the oceans around Scilly. One made ScillyToday’s headlines when it turned up in September on the beach outside the home of Bryher artist Richard Pearce.

And now the scientists have returned with the two gliders and four new vessels.

Kim Marshall-Brown from the National Oceanography Centre says it’s a non-military experiment to test how the different craft work together.

Some will operate under the water, like last year’s test, while others remain on the surface, collecting data such as weather, wave heights, sea temperature and information on microscopic plankton.

They can also survey sea birds and marine litter, as well as fish that have been tagged and cetaceans, like whales and dolphins. The vessels will communicate via satellites.

The surface craft are being launched from the new Porthloo slip, while the submersibles will be taken out about 15 nautical miles by the IFCA RIB, the Matt Lethbridge.

It’s thought they’ll remain in the area around the continental shelf monitoring wildlife that’s attracted to certain types of sea conditions found at this time of year.

Kim says a notice has been issued to mariners warning them that the vessels will be in operation and she says she hopes they won’t end up in any shipping lanes.

They’re expected to remain out at sea for up to three weeks.