The Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2nd edition of FLAD’s Science Award Atlantic is Renato Mendes, a researcher at CoLAB +Atlantic. The researcher will receive 300.000 euros of funding in three years to develop a project that will significantly increase the knowledge of the Atlantic Ocean in its different dimensions, culminating in the first crossing of an autonomous surface vehicle (ASV), entirely sustainable, between Mainland Portugal and the Archipelago of the Azores.

After the success of the first edition of this award, won by researcher Rui Seabra, the 2021 edition had once again excellent applications. The choice of the jury fell on the project JUNO – Robotic Exploration of Atlantic Waters, for the quality of the project, the multidisciplinarity of the team that will lead it, and the high-quality information that will be added to the knowledge of the Atlantic.

The JUNO project will involve the development of the software of this innovative autonomous surface vehicle (ASV), and its operational evaluation and testing, on a long-term journey in the Atlantic Ocean.

“In situ ocean observation has been limited by humans’ ability to make comprehensive observations in the face of the geographical dimensions, severity and isolation of
the marine environment. The development and demonstration of autonomous surface vehicles, adapted to the mapping, monitoring, and surveillance of the Atlantic,
promise significant changes in the way we know and deal with the ocean.”
– Elsa Henriques, member of the Executive Board of FLAD.

Through this vehicle – the Caravel – it will be possible to carry out long-term ocean data collection missions, observe dynamic phenomena, especially those that last only a few days or weeks – such as the occasional proliferation of algae, the development of ocean fronts, or the agglomerations of floating debris, also known as “plastic islands”.

“An ambitious project designed around a simple idea: to join the two sides of the Atlantic through an autonomous surface vehicle with remote supervision and control. This project anticipates the future of pan-Atlantic ocean monitoring, based on scientific cooperation between Portuguese and North-American research groups.” – Miguel Miranda, President of IPMA.

The winning project is based on the joint work between various disciplines, such as oceanography and engineering, and will have as national partners the CoLAB +Atlantic and the Laboratório de Sistemas e Tecnologias Subaquáticas of the Faculty of Engineering at Porto University and, as an American partner, Prof. Pierre Lermusiaux, at MIT.

“The JUNO project combines excellent scientific research, conducted by a multi-disciplinary team, with the first solo oceanic crossing that will generate high-quality data and contribute to the promotion of ocean literacy.” – Pedro Camanho, President of LAETA.

The successful development of this type of autonomous vehicle will bring considerable advantages to the study of the Atlantic Ocean, with a consistent collection of data over a long time period, as is the case of oceanographic and meteorological information in the Atlantic, in regions where it is currently scarce. Data acquisition in the ocean and its free sharing between institutions, scientists, and citizens is one of the key objectives of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-30).

This scientific data is key to the study of climate change, marine pollution, noise monitoring, and fishing in the oceans, among many others.

This autonomous surface vehicle moves using the energy generated by waves, and has installed solar panels for periods when the tide is not enough, making the journey entirely sustainable, and allowing to make more trips, that are longer, and prepared less in advance.


The evaluation of the applications was made by a jury of excellence composed of three elements.

About the Award

Research about the Atlantic is essential to understand very diverse and multidisciplinary areas with an impact on the sustainability of our planet and our quality of life, from the interaction between oceans, atmosphere, and space, to climate change and sustainability.

FLAD’s goal is to stimulate the development of technology and promote the new generation of Portuguese scientists. This award has a great focus on achieving practical results, such as the creation of engineering and technologies, that facilitate our understanding and exploration of Atlantic ecosystems. In addition, FLAD intends to provide support and distinguish researchers at the beginning of their careers, thereby promoting the promising new generation of researchers residing in Portugal, always with a close collaboration link with the main research groups in the United States.