Two drone sailboats set sail on Lake Michigan to collect data on fish

Ottawa County

PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A wild sight on Lake Michigan Wednesday: A pair of 23 foot sailing drones on the water beginning two months of exploration.

The drones will be counting fish. The data collected will determine how much fish commercial fishers can catch. The Great Lakes supports commercial fishing but the state needs to know where the fish are and how many are in the water before setting standards.

The two drones took off for their first freshwater voyage from Eldean Marina on Lake Macatawa Wednesday morning, but the mission will officially begin on August 5. 

The drone sailboats are owned and operated by a company called Saildrone, headquartered in California. The boats will be sailing around Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and then over to Georgian Bay in Canada.

Traveling along with the two Saildrones is a manned boat run by U.S. Geological Surveys Great Lakes Science Center, the sole science agency for the Department of the Interior, which is funding the project.

Data on the fish population will be collected by all three boats, then compared to help set commercial fishing standards. Researchers will be looking at day and night distribution of fish, and will focus on the effects invasive mussels have had on the food chain.

Updates from the drones will be posted on Saildrone’s social media.

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