Saildrone launches mid-sized Voyager USV for near-shore ocean mapping
Since we first got wind of Saildrone's ocean data-gathering autonomous USVs back in 2018, they've mapped miles of ocean floor, chased hurricanes (and even shared video from inside Hurricane Sam), and surveyed remote regions. Now the company is adding a new vessel to its fleet, to tackle near-shore mapping and maritime surveillance.
In terms of overall size, the new Voyager uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) sits in the middle of Saildrone's model offerings, between the 23-ft-long (7-m) Explorer and the 65-ft-long (20-m) Surveyor. According to the company, it's been designed to undertake near-shore (ocean) and lakebed mapping, as well as embark on intelligence gathering for law enforcement, maritime safety, drug enforcement, border/harbor security missions together with surveillance of illegal fishing operations.
Like its siblings, the sensor payload can be tweaked to match the requirements of each application – the mapping suite will include IHO-compliant multibeam sonar capable of scanning to depths of 900 ft (300 m), for example, while smart cameras, digital radar and sub-surface acoustic sensors will be on board for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) tasks. Other options include atmospheric sensors, an inertial measurement unit, and a sound velocity profiler with winch.
Onboard electronics are powered by solar cells up top, and there's a 21-ft-high (6-m) Saildrone wing for wind propulsion, though there is a 4-kW electric motor included as an auxiliary. Mission endurance is reported to be more than 3 months.
Rather than manufacture everything in-house, as with its other USVs, Saildrone has elected to outsource the production of the Voyager's wing and keel to Janicki Industries in Washington and the hull to Seemann Composites in Mississippi. Everything is then brought together at the former airplane hanger in Alameda, California – currently at a rate of one per week.
The Voyager USV has been undergoing sea trials in the San Francisco Bay and out beyond the Californian coastline since late 2022. The first operational missions are due to commence in the American spring. In the meantime, if you want to know more, the company is at the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum in Baltimore this week, and the Sea Air Space expo at National Harbor, Maryland, from April 3 to 5.
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