SAMBA – Smart Autonomous Monitoring of the Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea is an integral component of the lives of those living around it. It influences our climate and weather, and its ecosystems host important living resources and biodiversity and its environment has been under threat and its ecological status damaged by our development for nearly 100 years.

Voice of the Ocean (VOTO) was founded to provide scientists high resolution, long data series allowing the scientists to focus on crucial questions and address the public with profound answers. By using cutting edge technology and experts, VOTO takes on the responsibility of the data acquisition tailored for each unique project.

VOTO’s first project, “Smart Autonomous Monitoring of the Baltic Sea”, is a collaboration between VOTO and Gothenburg University. The project seeks to fundamentally change the landscape of ocean observation in the Baltic Sea by collecting the largest, and highest resolution, data set of the Baltic Sea, from chemistry and physics at the molecular level, to weather, fisheries and ocean functions across the Baltic Sea.

“Our approach is grounded in the belief that delivering a fundamental increase in our ability to collect high-definition, ecosystem-wide observations across the entire Baltic
Sea will lead to an equal fundamental increase in our understanding of the Baltic Sea and our ability to protect this precious environment”, says Bastien Queste, Assistant Professor, Physical Oceanography University of Gothenburg.

Over the last 30 years, strong measures have been put in place by surrounding states to help the Baltic ecosystem recover. For example, nutrient inputs into the Baltic Sea have decreased by half since 1980. Intergovernmental organizations such as the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission – also known as the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) – were established to monitor ecosystem recovery and promote common environmental objectives and policies. (Figure at:

These efforts can only lead to effective advice and action when based on accurate, up-to-date, and complete information. Recovery directly depends on our ability to observe and better understand the immense complexity of ocean functions of the Baltic Sea.

“Our strength lies in the infrastructure at our disposal and the leading-edge instrumentation that they now make available to the scientific community. We are now in the age of the smart autonomous revolution. In our homes and everywhere around us, thousands of data points and metrics are recorded continuously to make our lives easier through increased knowledge and understanding. We now do the same in the sea”, says Ola Oskarsson, at VOTO Ocean Knowledge.

VOTO are launching smart autonomous platforms into the Baltic Sea. The platforms can be divided into three categories: underwater, surface, and stationary.

 Oceangliders (underwater) are rechargeable instruments which remain at sea for months at a time, measuring biological, chemical and physical metrics every second. These ocean gliders swim slowly across the Baltic, from the surface to the seafloor building high-definition 3-Dimensional pictures of these critical environmental parameters.

SailbuoysTM (surface) on the other hand, stay on the surface, powered using renewable solar panels. Sailbuoys are state-of-the-art vessels that can autonomously sail around the oceans collecting oceanographic (temperature, salinity, currents) and meteorological (wind, air temperature) data. We control them via satellite and the vessels send real time data every 5 minutes to us back on land. By remaining on the surface and using solar panels, Sailbuoys travel faster than ocean gliders, be deployed for months at a time and carry more advanced sensors.

Together, these innovative platforms obtain observations that we would traditionally collect fromtime-consuming and expensive ship surveys at a fraction of the cost. They function autonomously, but can be remotely piloted by the project team, to survey the Baltic Sea in intelligent and adaptive ways, reacting to new discoveries and targeting key ocean features. The majority of the data collected is transmitted back to our team of experts in real-time so that it can be redirected to national and international agencies to inform weather forecasting services and computer simulations of the Baltic Sea.

Pairing Sailbuoys on the surface with gliders under water is really unique/novel because we are able to observe the ocean and atmosphere system as a whole. Such state-of-the-art systems are really a first for Swedish waters and are set to change the way we think about collecting observations and how we understand our environment. We are extremely excited to grow this technological capability in Sweden and the Nordic region. This is crucial to understanding our entire ocean environment better.

Our strength is our ability to deliver novel, leading-edge instrumentation and coordination by a team of experts to build synergies between projects, to bring forth a step change in our understanding of the Baltic Sea ecosystem.

”The use of autonomous robots in the ocean really reduces the cost of data while increasing data volume and knowledge, compared with ships and moorings. We are undergoing a global revolution in technological innovation for the ocean and Sweden needs to be part of this unprecedented change”, says Sebastiaan Swart, Associate Professor Physical Oceanography University of Gothenburg.

VOTO’s future is to supplement national and international infrastructure, building on excellence and expertise of our academic and industrial partners. We will leverage our existing large infrastructure and provide cutting-edge technology and tools to the wider scientific community. Soon, we will welcome applications for further projects and use of our infrastructure. With our ability to deliver novel, leading-edge instrumentation and coordination by a team of experts we will build synergies between projects which makes it possible to bring forth a step change in our understanding of the Baltic Sea ecosystem.

For further information please contact:
Ola Oskarsson, VOTO Ocean Knowledge,
+46 70-852 78 85