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Saildrone unveils Surveyor Unmanned Surface Vehicle.

| Naval News Navy 2024

According to information published by Saildrone on March 7, 2024, the firm has has unveiled a new class of its Surveyor unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), designed for autonomous deep-water ocean mapping and maritime defense and security tasks.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Surveyor Unmanned Surface Vehicle. (Picture source: Saildrone)

The announcement came during an event at Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, with Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Lisa Franchetti inspecting the new vehicle. This initiative marks a preparatory phase for the USVs, which are slated for testing under a contract with the US Navy.

The Surveyor, with a length of 20 meters (65 feet) and a weight of 15 tons, is noted as the largest class of unmanned, autonomous vehicles currently in operation. It adheres to the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) Light Warship code and is aimed at providing solutions for hydrographic surveys and maritime domain awareness (MDA) missions requiring extensive area coverage.

The Surveyor combines radar, cameras, an automatic identification system (AIS), and advanced machine learning to deliver situational awareness for issues like illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, smuggling, and safety at sea missions.

Given that only 25% of the ocean's floor has been mapped due to a shortage of survey ships, the Surveyor class seeks to offer an economical and environmentally friendly approach to expanding oceanic knowledge. These USVs are equipped with the latest multibeam bathymetry echo sounders and metocean sensors for precise ocean mapping and ecosystem monitoring.

Since its initial launch in January 2021, the Saildrone Surveyor has shown its capability to conduct mapping missions that meet or surpass the accuracy of traditional survey ships, while also performing MDA missions. The vehicle is designed to automate repetitive and hazardous tasks, thereby allowing crewed vessels to focus on more critical operations.

The Surveyor class USVs are primarily wind-powered, with a 13-meter-tall wing sail, and include a high-efficiency diesel generator for prolonged missions. Saildrone led the development and design of the Surveyor, with its aluminum hull and keel manufactured by Austal USA and the composite wing and internal components produced at Saildrone’s Alameda, California headquarters.

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