Islanders Profile: Eugene Gwost, Droning On

Photo by Lauren Wilson

Eugene Gwost was born and grew up on Guemes Island. As a local boy, he graduated from Anacortes High and went on to Skagit Valley College’s Marine Maintenance program. Holding down a job as well as carrying 28 credits per quarter Eugene finished the program but wanted more than what that certificate offered. With the help of WorkForce Grants which offers scholarships, resources and support for training and education, Eugene got closer to his goal.

Building, breaking and repairing boats with his Dad since he was 6 years old, he came to relish taking things apart and finding what broke and why. This process became second nature to Mike and Suzie Gwost’s first born. Eugene spent his early years on Guemes, less population than now, with a tight group of friends - hours in the woods with his buddies, working and repairing boats with his dad, fishing, music, and video games. A long way from unmanned sailing drones in the Pacific.

That is part of how this gregarious young man became the composite production lead at Saildrone, the manufacturer of wind and solar powered autonomous surface vehicles.
What is Saildrone? I asked.

Once Eugene starts talking about this project, it is hard to curb his enthusiasm, nor am I inclined to try.

His interest started when he and fellow native Guemeian, Gabe Murphy, worked on the Google Energy Kite project for Makani. These two were about as far removed from Guemes beaches and woods as they could get. They embraced this wind, solar, autonomous technology and ran with it.

Saildrone, located two hangars from Makani in Alameda, CA had a job opening. With encouragement from Gabe, Eugene applied and got the position with the Wing Build team and was given pretty much free reign as lead.

Saildrone manufactures an Ocean Data Platform powered by a fleet of unmanned surface vehicles (USV’s) collecting ocean data to derive planetary insights using a fleet of sailing drones. Eugene is lead of the wing build team. The materials his team works with are composites.

Their biggest client is NOAA. Data is compiled and streamed on a live graph every half second. Weather, ocean temperatures, fish stock analysis, wave height, salinity, all vital information on the effect of commercial fishing on the West Coast.

Seattle Times: Saildrones go where humans can’t — or don’t want to — to study the world’s oceans