New Wave Media

March 22, 2024

Saildrone Launches First Next-gen Surveyor USV

(Photo: Saildrone)

(Photo: Saildrone)

The first of Saildrone's new generation of Surveyor-class unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) has been launched by builder Austal USA in Mobile, Ala.

Purpose-built for autonomous deep-water ocean mapping missions and maritime defense and security missions, the new USVs are being tested under contract to the U.S. Navy.

At 20 meters long (65 feet) and 15 tons, the Surveyor is the world’s largest unmanned, autonomous vehicle class in operation. Built to the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) Light Warship code, the Surveyor will provide the Navy and other government customers with a cutting-edge solution for open-ocean hydrographic surveys and maritime domain awareness (MDA) missions that require persistent wide area coverage.

The Surveyor’s aluminum hull and keel were manufactured by Austal USA, and the fiberglass composite wing and internal components were built at Saildrone’s headquarters in Alameda, Calif.

“It is tremendous to see the first vehicle launched of many that will be produced here in Alabama,” said Saildrone founder and CEO Richard Jenkins. “Everyone at Saildrone is very proud to be supporting the US Navy and contributing to our defense and national security.”

The Surveyor fuses radar, cameras, automatic identification system (AIS), and advanced machine learning to deliver comprehensive situational awareness remotely from anywhere in the world. Saildrone offers solutions for challenges like IUU fishing, counter smuggling, and safety of life at sea (SOLAS) missions. The Surveyor detects vessels at sea, even those not transmitting their position via AIS, and can employ passive acoustics to further discriminate targets.

Surveyor USVs also carry the latest multibeam bathymetry echo sounders and metocean sensors for ocean mapping and ecosystem monitoring.

Saildrone said its first Surveyor, launched in January 2021, has demonstrated mapping capabilities that meet or exceed traditional survey ships. The Saildrone Surveyor can perform mapping missions simultaneously during MDA missions. The Surveyor is a force multiplier, completing dangerous and monotonous tasks at scale, so that crewed assets can be optimized for higher-value missions.

“Using unmanned assets helps put more players on the field by freeing up manned assets for more specific and important tasks,” said Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Lisa Franchetti was recently on-site at Austal USA to inspect the vehicle ahead of testing. “It’s good to see high tech industry partnering with the traditional shipbuilding industrial base to rapidly deliver cutting-edge products at scale.”

Like all Saildrone USVs, the Surveyor class is primarily propelled by wind using its 13-meter-tall wing sail. It is also equipped with a high-efficiency diesel generator for long-range, long-endurance missions.

The February 2024 edition of Marine Technology Reporter is focused on Oceanographic topics and technologies.
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