VAIMOS is an autonomous sailboat that can almost concurrently measure the first centimetres of the ocean and the underlying water column. This instrument will routinely and continuously measure temperature and salinity as well as certain biogeochemical parameters.
The identification of peculiarities in the concentration levels of biogeochemical tracers at the surface of the mixed layer has challenged the assumption of a homogenous mixed layer. The ubiquity of these peculiarities and their horizontal structures are still largely unknown owing to the absence of tools capable of measuring the first centimetres of the ocean.
In view of this fact, the department has embarked on the development of a new type of instrument: an easy-to-use autonomous sailboat capable of almost concurrently measuring the first centimetres of the ocean and the underlying water column. Christened VAIMOS, this instrument routinely and continuously measures temperature and salinity as well as certain biogeochemical parameters including chlorophyll a (Chla), CO2 partial pressure, nutriments and concentration of dissolved oxygen. An initial prototype has been built, immediately showing a vertical Chla gradient that is not seen in temperature measurements. These preliminary results are promising and the community of oceanographers pressing for alternatives to VAIMOS is starting to show an interest.
The VAIMOS project is based on knowledge acquired from MOBESENS and has given rise to close cooperation between engineers, technicians, scientists and teachers from the technological R&D unit of the Laboratoire de Physique des Océans (UMR 6523, Ifremer/CNRS/UBO/IRD) and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Techniques Avancées in Brittany.
Other French projects are seeking to develop a robotic sailboat, either primarily designed for the conduct of robotic research (ANR ASAROME) or specifically designed for the Microtransat Challenge (ENSTA Bretagne, ISAE, etc). To our knowledge, VAIMOS is the only autonomous sailboat of which the initial design features a high-performance instrumental aspect including surface oceanographic measurements. At the present time, it delivers about one week of autonomy. Longer periods could be achieved by optimizing the amount of energy consumed by its fittings.