Uncrewed Surface Vehicle Sails Through Certification

By Josh Luckenbaugh

Saildrone photo

ARLINGTON, Virginia — California-based company Saildrone announced its Voyager robotic boat has become the first commercial uncrewed surface vehicle to meet light warship standards of the American Bureau of Shipping.

Voyager received classification under the bureau’s light warship code, meaning it has passed the same safety, reliability and flotation requirements of light warships, Saildrone CEO Richard Jenkins said in an interview. The organization categorizes light warships — along with patrol and high-speed naval craft — as vessels that typically operate in riverine, coastal, or littoral environments, such as corvettes and offshore or high-speed patrol vessels, according to ABS documents.

Classification allows the Voyager to operate in the ports and waters of countries that require vessels to be classed by organizations such as ABS. It is an “incredibly valuable step forward to putting the reliability and integrity of these vehicles alongside other ships,” giving confidence to customers that “the systems are manufactured to appropriate standards and that are recognized in the shipbuilding world,” Jenkins said.

One of Saildrone’s customers is the Navy, which in September deployed 10 Voyagers in support of 4th Fleet’s Operation Windward Stack, which has a long-term goal to validate Navy leadership’s vision of a hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned vessels working together to complete missions, a service release stated.

The Saildrones’ primary mission is to improve maritime domain awareness by detecting and quantifying targets that pass within range of their sensors, the release said.

The 33-foot Voyager is one of three variants in Saildrone’s fleet, which also includes the 23-foot Explorer and the 65-foot Surveyor.

In October, Saildrone’s fleet reached one million cumulative nautical miles sailed, an achievement Jenkins said is a testament “to how many missions we’ve done over the years.”

“The ocean is a very, very tough place — probably one of the toughest places on the planet. So, to operate on the surface of the ocean for that long is a real engineering feat,” Jenkins said.

And building a reliable uncrewed vessel is “just 20 percent of the puzzle,” he said. Having the vehicle gets you in the door, but “it’s really the sensor integration and data processing and the machine learning we use to process very, very large volumes of data that give you the value.” ND


Topics: Maritime Security

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