Sea mines are one of the cheapest and most dangerous threats for naval forces; a reality experienced in both World Wars and the Korean War. In order to mitigate the impacts and risks of sea mines on naval operations, advanced navies have been increasing their investments in autonomous Mine Countermeasure (MCM) capabilities for two decades.
Militaries are becoming increasingly reliant on the unmanned ground, sea, and aerial vehicles to carry out dull, dirty, and dangerous missions. On 15 December 2016, Chinese forces seized an unmanned underwater vehicle being operated by a US government vessel, USNS Bowditch, 50 nautical miles from the Philippine coast in the South China Sea. Chinese government referred to the ambiguity of the law surrounding the use, and seizure, of “drones”, as well as to repeated US “reconnaissance” in waters over which China stakes a claim.
The AUV, subsequently revealed as a Teledyne Webb Slocum G2 glider by the USN, was deployed from the Pathfinder-class survey ship USNS Bowditch on what was claimed to be oceanographic survey operations when it was retrieved by an armed PLAN vessel 50 n miles northwest of Subic Bay, Philippines. This incident has brought into focus on the emerging trend of Unmanned surface vehicles for dual use missions as the oceanographic measurements can also be exploited for military applications such as underwater navigation and sonar calibration.
Captain Nurettin Sevi, Turkish Navy, Aerospace and Defense analyst at GlobalData comments: “Modern mines have become more sophisticated with their stealth, multisensory fused and anti-sweep/anti-hunt features. Navies worldwide are seeking the best solution enabling them to detect, sweep and hunt sea mines cost-effectively, safely and swiftly. Thus, MCM is undergoing a major transition from traditional mine-hunting to an unmanned and autonomous future. UVs offer an optimum solution to this threat. They provide strategic and operational advantages to navies and security forces by reducing the maintenance and operating costs and human risk significantly in MCM operations, as well as by extending the reach of information, surveillance and reconnaissance collection.
USVs for MCM Missions
Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) or Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs), Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs), or colloquially drone ships) are boats or ships that operate at or near the sea surface and has no vehicle operators on board.. USVs operate with various levels of autonomy, from simple remote control to autonomous COLREGs compliant navigation.
USVs have greater potential payload capacity and endurance than comparably sized unmanned systems in other domains. They are able to use higher-density energy sources than UUVs (hydrocarbons instead of batteries), and, unlike UAVs, they do not need to burn fuel merely to maintain their vertical position; if desired, they can move relatively slowly for days or weeks without refueling.
The USV are increasingly employed as they collect data for longer periods of time, at a fraction of the cost of Research ships, and with wide-ranging scientific and industrial applications – from monitoring marine life to military surveillance, piracy control, fisheries protection, and the offshore gas, oil, and renewables industries. There is an important distinction between the terms unmanned and autonomous. Unmanned means that there are no humans aboard, while autonomous means that the system completes tasks without human input.
ISR, transport, ASW, MCM, and area denial are some of the potential domains of operations for USVs. USVs have a significant advantage over other unmanned vehicles as they can collect data both above and underwater, while also serving as a platform for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). MCM is yet another area where USVs can revolutionize operations. The modular structure and payload capacities of these vehicles reduce the cost and human risk in MCM and ASW operations.
According to RAND, “First, USVs could uniquely enable cross-domain integration, increasing the capabilities of other unmanned vehicles or networks. USVs can leverage their relatively large payloads, large reserves of power, and long endurance to provide services for other unmanned platforms—e.g., physically transporting them, preprocessing data for them, and providing electric power via a tether.
Second, USVs could be highly effective in overcoming challenging anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) environments, particularly in military deception, information operations, electronic warfare, and cyber warfare missions. USVs can help to counter A2/AD challenges by reducing risks to personnel and capital assets; dispersing capabilities into small, hard-to-target nodes; and expanding tactical choices by creating new concepts of employment. Third, we found that increased investment in USV research, development, and acquisition could facilitate technology transfers to other unmanned and manned R&D programs.”
RAND concluded that USVs were ” particularly suitable for missions such as characterizing the physical environment, observation and collection regarding adversaries, mine warfare, military deception/information operations/electronic warfare, defense against small boats, testing and training, search and rescue, and the support of other unmanned vehicles. However, USVs need advanced autonomy and assured communications to complete complex missions, as well as any missions in complex environments. Autonomous seakeeping and maritime traffic avoidance are USV-specific capabilities that likely need to be developed with U.S. Navy involvement.”
Battle fleets are blue-water fleets used to defeat (or at least deter) the enemy fleet and gain dominance over the seas. For the US Navy, this is the role of carrier strike groups. USVs would be able to supplement their capabilities and defenses, making these fleets more distributed and survivable. The battle fleet will be increasingly characterized by swarms of smaller ships, armed with missiles and unmanned systems, that can substitute for large, expensive capital ships in a more distributable, mobile, and collaborative battle fleet
- Small USVs can scout around the outside of the fleet and extend the range of the radar coverage. Although airborne drones are currently used to extend the radar horizon, USVs would likely be able to operate with greater independence and endurance.
- Missile armed LUSVs can also contribute to the air defense capabilities or act as floating ordinance batteries to increase a strike group’s firepower.
- Smaller, more disposable USVs could act as decoys or carry out electronic warfare tasks.
Navies race to employ Unmanned surface vessel
Navies around the world are developing USVs of all types and experimenting with them to provide insights into key questions such as which missions the various unmanned craft should undertake, and how those vessels best fit into the wider naval tactical and operational construct. Development of those new doctrines, strategies, and tactics is needed, along with rapidly developing technologies and capabilities. The design and build of uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) is complex and challenging. Hundreds of decisions relating to mission goals, payload requirements, power budget, hull design, communication systems and propulsion control and management need to be analysed and implemented.
The UK and France have a joint Maritime Mine Countermeasures (MMCM) programme to harness the potential of maritime autonomy in the mine-hunting role and reduce the risk to the sailor in the minefield. The program will comprise a USV equipped with an autonomous navigation system, obstacle detection and avoidance sonar, threat identification and neutralisation capability based on Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV), a Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar (T-SAS) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV). The first equipment is expected to be delivered in the last quarter of 2022. In addition to this, the NELSON programme, an innovation programme within the Royal Navy focused on using AI and data science to build a ‘Ship’s Mind’ enabling better decision making, includes a Route Survey Tasking and Analytics (RSTA) project that will adopt autonomous vehicles, open architectures and AI, with the intention to deliver an unmanned capability for routine MCM tasks in UK waters by 2022.
The UK MoD is also investing in a Mine and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) program. This seeks to procure three UUV to conduct mine warfare missions from USVs. Similarly, the Belgian and Dutch Navies will replace their aging fleets of Tripartite-class vessels from 2023. Under the MCM programme, the Belgium Naval and Robotics consortium (formed by Naval Group and ECA Group) will supply 12 vessels and associated equipment to the Belgian and Dutch Navies. This vessel will be equipped with ECA Group’s Inspector 125 USVs, A18-M autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), and SEASCAN and K-STER C ROVs. All these drones can be operated autonomously from the USV Inspector 125. The drone system also includes unmanned aerial vehicles and influence sweeps.
DARPA is currently testing Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) Unmanned Surface Vessel . The vessel was commissioned in April 2016, and DARPA will conduct the initial trials and turn the vessel over to ONR later this year. The test phase will run through September 2018.
The ACTUV enemy submarine hunter is expected to be about 130 feet long. DARPA has announced that it. In addition to hunting enemy subs, ACTUV will be capable of a wide range of missions, such as reconnaissance and counter-mine deployments. It could also be useful to resupply troops.
The ACTUV is designed to out-endure any diesel-electric submarine, even those equipped with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) at a fraction of their size and cost. The craft will be an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) designed to operate and patrol autonomously for 60-90 days straight, being able to hunt for targets and avoid surface ships by itself. Once the enemy sub is spotted it could guide other U.S. naval assets to the vessel’s location to destroy it.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) outlined its plans for a new family of unmanned surface vessels (USVs) at the 2017 International Ocean Science and Technology (OST) exhibition in Qingdao. The platforms are aimed at addressing a range of maritime security and naval requirements, and are under development by the Beijing-based 13th Research Institute of CASC’s Ninth Academy.
The new USV designs include the 8.5 m long B850, which is intended to conduct high-speed maritime patrol and interdiction missions, the 11.5 m long A1150 for hydrographic survey, and the 15 m long C1500, which is optimised for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations.
The Royal Australian Navy has been working on having autonomous MCM capability under Project SEA 1778. Thales Australia, the prime systems integrator, is in the early stages of acceptance testing of the deployable MCM suite. The current suite consists of the Atlas Elektronik Seafox expendable mine neutralisation system, General Dynamics Mission Systems’ (GDMS’s) Bluefin 9 and 12 AUVs, and the MAS Zengrange remote detonation system. The Navy will use Steber’s 12m MCM support boats, which will be converted into USVs by ECA Robotics’ command, control and communication [C3] system and sweep track monitor. Moreover, in August 2020, the country allocated $15m for research and development to use swarm Micro AUVs to detect and clear naval mines.
Israel’ Elbit Systems has developed Seagull Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV). A first-of-its-kind maritime robot designed for missions in underwater mine hunting, mine clearing, anti-diver and Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) operations. The 12 meters long, USV uses electro-optic, sonar and infrared sensors to search for underwater threats.
According to local media, the Russian Navy started to experiment the use of UUVs and USVs from its Project 22350 Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate. The Russian Navy is using the Admiral Kasatonov frigate (second ship of the class) to test the Diamond system. It is a mine warfare system consisting of an unmanned surface vessel (USV) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV). Regarding the Diamond system, the USV can operate at a distance of up to 10 km from the ship. The Diamond systems (Including 4 Inspector Mk2 USVs) were originally procured from French company ECA Group for the new MCM vessels of the Russian Navy by the Russian company Prominvest (part of the State Corporation Rostec) in January 2014 .
Russia, like other advanced navies, is also acquiring unmanned maritime vehicles for MCM missions under the Alexandrit-class [Project 12700] minesweepers programme. Russia plans to have 30 Alexandrit-class minesweepers by 2050. For each vessel, the programme includes two Alister-9 UUVs, two K-Ster I-type UUVs, ten K-Ster C disposable UUVs and an Inspector-MK2-type unmanned MCM vessel. China follows the same path to have autonomous MCM capability by investing in USVs and UUVs.
The Russian Navy is following the trend that consists of using manned surface vessels (sometimes fully-fledged surface combatants) for the launch, operation and recovery of unmanned maritime systems, essentially using the manned vessel as a mother ship. As Naval News has reported, the navies of Singapore (MRCV) and Japan (30FFM) are working on such projects. So are the navies of Belgium and the Netherlands in the field of mine warfare.
South Korea is developing an Autonomous Mine Warfare Capability. In 2018, Daeyang Electric was awarded a contract to develop underwater Mine Disposal Vehicles (MDVs) for the Republic of Korea Navy and the company delivered ten MDVs as of January 2021. Moreover, in order to boost this capability, Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) awarded a KRW12bn ($11m) contract to LIG Nex1 to develop indigenous AUV for mine detection in December 2020. The AUV is expected to be completed by 2023.
In April 2021, Turkish companies Ares Shipyard and Meteksan have unveiled anti-submarine warfare (ASW) variant of the ULAQ Unmanned Surface Combat Vehicle (USCV). Turkish companies Ares Shipyard and Meteksan have unveiled anti-submarine warfare (ASW) variant of the ULAQ Unmanned Surface Combat Vehicle (USCV). First AUSV’s missile systems are inclusive of 4 cells of Cirit and 2 of L-UMTAS, supplied by our national missile systems provider ROKETSAN. It completed its first firing test successfully on 27th May 2021. The ULAQ can be deployed from combat ships. It can be controlled remotely from mobile vehicles, headquarters, command centers and floating platforms.
Along with the missile systems, AUSV will be equipped with different variations of communication and intelligence systems like jamming and electronic warfare systems to correspond diverse operational needs. AUSV will be able to carry out joint operations with complementary forces. Furthermore, AUSV is not only a remotely controlled vehicle but also and more importantly an autonomous vehicle that hosts artificial intelligence. After the first prototype vessel, other USVs for the operations like surveillance and intelligence, mine counter measures, anti-submarine warfare, fire-fighting, search and rescue missions, will be manufactured.
US Navy Requirements
USVs are expected to become a key part of the US Navy fleet in the future due to the urgency attached by the navy for meeting the rapidly evolving military threats from countries such as China. The US Navy aims to shift towards a distributed fleet architecture that includes more unmanned vehicles to support manned surface combatants and is aiming to introduce them into service quickly.
The U.S. Navy is pursuing a new Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) concept that will help redefine how the Navy fights and operates. This major operating concept will soon play a significant role in how the Navy organizes its future force development. This important line of effort was highlighted in the Chief of Naval Operations’ recently released Design For Maintaining Maritime Superiority 2.0. This speaks to a wider dispersion of ships, in order to hold an enemy at risk from multiple attack axes and force that enemy to defend an increased number of vulnerabilities, created by that dispersion.
Implementing distributed operations will require more ships spread across wider distances. This, in turn, will lead to a changing fleet composition with larger numbers of small ships and vessels of all types, as well as provide the additional required logistical support over expanded distances. Far greater participation of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) of all types will be needed as a part of this new construct due to budgetary necessity and operational imperative.
For instance, the US Navy has launched the Littoral Combat Ship Mission Modules (LCS MM) Programme comprising 48 unmanned surface vehicles (USV) procured for both Unmanned Mine Sweeping (UMS) and Remote Mine hunting (RMH) modules to perform mine-hunting missions. The Unmanned MCM USV will be a long-endurance, semi-autonomous, diesel-powered, all-aluminium surface craft that supports the employment of various MCM payloads, such as Minesweeping Payload Delivery Systems (PDS), mine hunting PDS and PDSs for future payloads, including Mine Neutralisation. It would facilitate the entire detect-to-engage process in a single MCM sortie. Knifefish and Barracuda Unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) will be used in the MCM modules. Besides, Orca XLUUV and its micro-sized UUVs could take part in MCM missions without alerting the enemy.
To date, naval plans for such USVs have been limited to the mine-countermeasures (MCM) mission areas, with the UISS initially intended for mine-sweeping. With that program being subsumed into the MCM USV program, mine-hunting payload options are being added and mine-neutralization equipment is being envisioned, which would facilitate the entire detect-to-engage process in a single MCM sortie.
However, USVs support a wide array of missions. For Navies operating at or near the sea surface gives USVs the ability to perform continuous surveillance and communicating with the suitably equipped surface, air, and underwater assets. USV mission packages are Mine Countermeasures (MCM), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Maritime Security, Surface Warfare (SUW), Special Operations Forces (SOF) Support, Electronic Warfare (EW), and Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) Support.
The quickest, best value, and lowest risk path forward to developing long-term solutions for new missions is to adapt existing, proven, and already paid-for unmanned vehicle designs by swapping out their mission-specific equipment. The idea is to use a common unmanned vessel that can easily and quickly incorporate a variety of payloads for diverse mission sets, or haul people and material in the payload bay area.
The Navy has already created several platforms for testing and integrating autonomous USVs. The Ghost Fleet Overload program has completed its first phase, conducting 600 hours of autonomous navigation with two converted commercial ships, and its second phase is currently testing C2 integration and payload systems. Additionally, two “Sea Hunter” autonomous ships are undergoing testing with the Navy’s Surface Development Squadron. These ships, initially developed by DARPA, are capable of continuously shadowing enemy submarines. And while not autonomous, small remote-controlled USVs are already in use as supporting vessels for the littoral combat ships, carrying out scouting, countermine, anti-submarine, and electronic warfare missions.
Textron Systems’ Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV)
US Navy is developing a mine-detecting Unmanned Influence Sweep System, or UISS, for the Littoral Combat Ship. The Navy’s influence sweep system will be towed behind the unmanned vehicle and will emit sounds and magnetic signatures that mimic a ship – setting off nearby mines that listen for passing ships, according to a report from the US Naval Institute. The UISS is carried by a Textron-developed Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, or CUSV. The CUSV, in development since before 2009, can travel for more than 20-hours carrying up to 4,000-pounds at speeds up to 20-knots, Textron information states.
In, Textron Systems’ Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV), the payloads are rapidly interchangeable. Much like a standard International Standards Organization (ISO) shipping container that can be quickly moved via crane onto and off of a tractor trailer, the CUSV uses ISO locks and standard electrical interfaces so that payloads can be changed rapidly, allowing mission flexibility. Unmanned craft such as the CUSV, which offer large amounts of electrical power as well as 5,000 pounds of payload capacity, can serve as the basic “trucks” for carrying a wide variety of potential mission packages that are tailored for specific tasks.
The Textron Systems Unmanned Systems fourth-generation CUSV is a multi-mission unmanned surface vehicle with a large, configurable payload bay. CUSV will support mine countermeasure missions include sweeping, hunting and neutralization. The sweeping system will be capable of targeting acoustic, magnetic, and combined influence mines. Textron announced that it is on-water testing for the fourth-generation Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV™), supporting the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) program.
Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles (LUSVs) and Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles (MUSVs)
For future procurement, the Navy has designated two acquisition programs: Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles (LUSVs) and Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles (MUSVs). MUSVs would be 45 feet to 190 feet long and tasked with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads and electronic warfare missions. LUSVs would be 200 feet to 300 feet in length and be more offensive in nature, armed with anti-ship and land-attack missiles.
Both programs are designed to be crew-optional, allowing for a small crew to remain on-board for missions where more hands-on oversight or decision-making might be needed. It also allows for a kind of “overlap” period where a human presence is maintained while technical and ethical issues surrounding command and control are worked out.
Advanced missions and concepts
In 2017, Textron Systems and the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren established a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), which allows for the exploration of advanced missions, concepts, and capabilities. Initial explorations have evaluated different payloads for a Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Mission Module that could counter fast-attack craft and swarming boats, as well as provide armed escort.
Payloads, such as an integrated remote weapon station (RWS) armed with .50 caliber machine gun, have already shown during mock intercepts that the craft can identify, lock, and maintain a fix on a moving target useful in conduct of harbor patrol, port security, or counter-piracy escort duties. Integration of a Hellfire missile is planned, and other lethal payloads such a 30mm cannon, low-cost loitering munition, or even larger systems like the Naval Strike Missile, could be considered for force protection, armed interdiction and escort missions.
The craft does not need to carry a mission package to be useful. Its empty payload areas can haul cargo for resupply and logistics – a capability that will be in greater demand as part of distributed operations. Similarly, a USV in “cargo configuration” could be of significant utility during humanitarian operations, delivering supplies to needy areas, and evacuation of people under duress.
CASC unveils next generation USV concepts
The B850 High-Speed Patrol USV is based on a 8.5 m rigid-hull inflatable boat seaframe outfitted with a diesel propulsion system with a proposed maximum speed of 40 kt and operational endurance in excess of 24 hours, or out to a range of 107 n miles. The design is also expected to be capable of operating in conditions of up to Sea State 4. The 8.5 m long B850 High-Speed Patrol USV is expected to undertake maritime patrol as well as force and installation protection missions, as reported by Janes.
The A1150 design features a payload capacity of up to 1.5 tonnes, although this is dedicated to carrying a range of measurement and survey instruments including fiber-optic hydrophones, marine magnetometers, multibeam side scan sonar, as well as single beam echo sounders. As high-speed maneuvering is not expected for the A1150’s mission profile, the institute’s engineers have instead prioritized the sea vehicle’s ability to generate and store electrical power for extended survey operations.
The C1500 design has been optimized for ASW missions and features a payload capacity of 2 tonnes. Equipped with a hybrid-electric propulsion system, the sea vehicle has a projected maximum speed of 40 kt and operating range of 270 n miles, with mission endurance in excess of 24 hours. It is expected to be capable of operating in up to Sea State 5.
The C1500 will be equipped with a dipping sonar as its principal means of detecting subsurface threats, although the design also features a stern-mounted launch and recovery system that supports an autonomous underwater vehicle or remotely operated vehicle. Should a detected anomaly be classified as a threat, the C1500 will engage it with its complement of lightweight torpedoes.
Although shown at OST 2017 as an ASW platform, according to Jane’s analysis the C1500 design can also be configured for other mission sets depending on customer requirements. Potential variants include platforms capable of executing short-range air defence, electronic warfare, as well as mine-countermeasure operations.
US Navy to Contract New Class of Unmanned Surface Vehicle
The US Navy is set to acquire a new class of unmanned surface vehicles, a new class of medium USV, up to 50 meters long, according to an unclassified readout of the program reviewed by USNI News.
According to a notional list of requirements, the medium USV will function as a sensor and communications relay as part of a family of unmanned surface systems being developed by the service. The craft will be able to carry a payload equivalent to a 40-foot shipping container, will operate on its own for at least 60 days before needing to return to port, and be capable of refueling at sea.
The craft will have to also be able to autonomously operate under the rules of the maritime road at a cruising speed of about 16 knots with a minimum range of about 4,500 nautical miles and operate via a government-provided communication relay system.
Standoff Maritime Inspection and Response (CASSMIR)
Co-sponsored by NAVWAR, Third Fleet and the Navy Warfare Development Command, TW21 initiatives spanned the entire spectrum of warfare and included high priority focus areas including networks, information operations, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR).
One of the technologies tested during the event was Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific’s Cooperative Autonomous Systems for Standoff Maritime Inspection and Response (CASSMIR). CASSMIR uses unmanned surface vehicles (USV) to autonomously support remotely operated vehicles (ROV) for in water reconnaissance, investigation, manipulation, recovery or neutralization of submerged objects, while keeping operators at a safe standoff distance and away from underwater threats.
During TW21 NAVWAR tested a developmental USV and its tethered ROV at the Imperial Beach Mine Range, to find, investigate and simulate neutralization of mine-like objects on the seabed.
Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV)
The Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV) is a long endurance, semi-autonomous, diesel-powered, all-aluminum, planning surface craft that supports the employment of various MCM payloads.
The use of USVs also increases the safety factor for the Sailors employing the systems by taking them out of the mine field. The MCM USV and Influence Sweep System will provide high area coverage rate in a small, lightweight package with minimal impact on the host platform. Operations will be conducted in Q-routes, straits, choke points, fleet operating areas and amphibious objective areas. The MCM USV, coupled with the AN/AQS-20 Sonar, will satisfy the U.S. Navy’s need for an organic (off-board) surface ship mine reconnaissance capability, designed to conduct rapid reconnaissance of bottom and moored mines from the deep-water region to the very shallow water region and determine the presence of mines and safe routes or operating areas around potential minefields.
Core capabilities of the MCM USV craft include propulsion, power generation, communications to/from the host ship, radar, optical cameras, navigation and a modular payload system. The MCM USV is capable of being launched and recovered by the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), from other Vessels of Opportunity or from shore sites.
When configured for minesweeping operations, the craft will employ the Influence Sweep System. When configured for minehunting operations, the craft will employ the AN/AQS-20 Minehunting Sonar System (MSS). The specific configuration for a given mission will be determined by the needs of the operational commander. Future payloads for the MCM USV are planned to include a Mine Neutralizer as part of the MCM detect-to-engage sequence.
Liquid Robotics Announces Next Generation of the Wave Glider, Unmanned Surface Vehicle
Liquid Robotics, announced the next generation of the Wave Glider with advancements to the platform’s operational range, and performance for missions in high sea states and high latitudes. Changes also include advancements for expanded sensor payloads and increased energy and storage capacity required for long duration maritime surveillance, environmental monitoring and observation missions.
Customers conducting exploration and surveillance missions in challenging environments are deploying Wave Gliders to collect and communicate data from locations too remote or too dangerous for manned systems.
Operating through a wide range of conditions and oceans around the world, including the Artic (latitude of 78.76N) and Southern Ocean (latitude of 64.8S), this new version builds on the current platform capabilities with the following innovations:
- Performance in high sea states (sea state 6 and greater)
- Advanced navigation in high latitudes (ex: Artic and Antarctica)
- Supports 30% heavier payloads to enable new sensors and missions
- 15% greater power collection and 40% more battery storage extends operational range and support for larger sensor payloads
- Anti-biofouling copper coating improves system performance and simplifies maintenance
“As we prepared for our deployment in the Southern Ocean, one of the most inhospitable ocean regions on the planet, it was clear that a successful mission required the next generation Wave Glider enhancements to provide reliable operations across the full spectrum of high seas we would encounter,” said Dr. Eric Terrill of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “We’ve worked with early versions of this platform off the coast of Iceland for an extreme seas study, and the Wave Glider performed admirably even in seas in excess of 10 meters (sea state 9), so we knew for peace of mind, our Southern Ocean project would require a similar configuration.”
The Global Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) market size is projected to reach USD 481.9 million by 2026, from USD 444.3 million in 2020, at a CAGR of 7.8% during 2021-2026.
Unmanned surface vehicles (USVS) are water-borne vessels that can operate on the water’s surface without the need for human operators. USVS are more versatile and less expensive than fully manned vessels, and they are primarily used for a variety of marine applications. The USVS is outfitted with several systems, including radar. Sonar, imaging systems, ISA systems, environmental sensors, data loggers, weapons payloads, and even a small unmanned underwater vehicle are all possible options (UUV). Sensor payloads are also included, which are used to inspect undersea cables and classify a variety of chemicals in seawater, among other things.
The demand for unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) is increasing as a result of growing commercial, scientific, and military concerns. USVs are widely used in military applications for a variety of missions and tasks, including surveillance and reconnaissance, mine countermeasures, defense system testing, and training, among others, boosting the market. Government investments from several countries to improve their maritime capabilities by operating USVs have aided market growth significantly
USVS uses a variety of propulsion systems, including gasoline engines, water jets, and electric outboard motors. The USVS is propelled by waves, wind, and even partially or completely by solar energy. These USVS can go on missions for months at a time without having to return to base. The demand for unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) is increasing as a result of growing commercial, scientific, and military concerns. USVs are widely used in military applications for a variety of missions and tasks, including surveillance and reconnaissance, mine countermeasures, defense system testing, and training, among others, boosting the market.
Payloads include cameras, sensors, SONARs, X-band marine radars, visual systems, LiDAR, echo sounders, and others. The market for payloads is increasing as this equipment has significant uses for enhancing USV capabilities. For instance, the market for camera payload is increasing as these enable enhanced visual and thermal data collection. Sensor payloads are one of the critical payloads in USVs as these are used for examining undersea cables and classifying a wide variety of chemicals in seawater.
Many suppliers are offering products across military and civil markets with more modular system designs to integrate surface and underwater system solutions. Unmanned sea vehicles have been used for decades for mine hunting and disposal, but are still at a relatively early stage of development. We are seeing USVs used in a variety of ways including anti-submarine warfare, counter-terrorism, anti-smuggling, harbor surveillance and increasing use in littoral waters.
The unmanned surface vehicle market in North America is projected to lead, and the market in Europe is projected to grow at the highest CAGR
The North American region is estimated to lead the global unmanned surface vehicle market in 2018, and is expected to continue to lead during the forecast period. The US is considered to be the largest developer, operator, and exporter of USVs, globally, resulting in the large share of the North American region in the global unmanned surface vehicle market.
The market in Europe is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. This rapid growth can be attributed to the increasing demand from scientific research and survey industries. In the European region maritime threats are continuously increasing, affecting the transportation of goods and energy. Thus, the demand for USVs is increasing for maritime security.
Some of the key players operating in the unmanned surface vehicle market are Textron Inc., ECA Group, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, ASV Global, Israel Aerospace Industries, Atlas Elektronik, Teledyne Technologies, 5G International, SeaRobotics, Liquid Robotics, Maritime Robotics, and Elbit Systems.
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