The University of South Florida and the Florida Institute of Oceanography unveiled a 117-foot, twin-hulled research vessel during a homeporting event Wednesday at the USF St. Petersburg campus, outside the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub.
FIO, which is hosted at USF and supports all institutions in the State University System, operates the state-of-the-art vessel which will offer opportunities for students to explore and advance in the field of ocean science.
Called Research Vessel Western Flyer, the ship was granted to USF by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and will be the most technologically advanced vessel in the FIO fleet.
The Western Flyer will be capable of long missions, operating in waters off the southeast United States. The ship’s technology and capabilities will allow for more interdisciplinary expeditions including at-sea development opportunities for research, engineering, maritime trades and other STEM careers.
“I don’t need to tell you that environmental sciences play a vital role locally and globally,” said Rhea Law, president of USF, at the press conference Wednesday. “This vessel will allow USF to make an impact in that area.”
The vessel will also feature an unmanned, remotely operated vehicle (ROV), designed to reveal the deepest, most mysterious parts of the Gulf of Mexico. Western Flyer is a distinctively wide and stable ship with a moon pool, an opening in the hull that allows scientists to deploy equipment such as the ROV.
“[USF] has truly arrived on a global stage in oceanographic science,” Law said.