With all the talk of aerial drones and cars that drive themselves these days, we knew it was only a matter of time until the use of unmanned ships came into the conversation.
Now, one company, Japan’s Eco Marine Power (EMP), says they are moving beyond just talking, announcing today that they will begin work related to the construction of a prototype for their unmanned surface vessel (USV) concept, the details of which have just been released.
Called “Aquarius USV”, the concept is being developed as a cost-effective unmanned surface vessel (USV) that will be capable of carrying out a number of missions from monitoring harbor pollution and oceanographic surveys to maritime park surveillance, coastal patrols and marine data collection.
EMP says that the Aquarius USV will incorporate a number of eco-friendly technologies developed in-house and with its strategic partners, including marine computer systems and lightweight flexible marine solar panels.
The USV will be powered by a solar-electric hybrid marine power solution which will also feature a solar panel array designed by EMP. On-board batteries will be re-charged via the solar-panel array or via ship or shore power using rapid battery re-charging technology.
The vessels computer systems will be based upon the KEI 3240 platform, a flexible marine computer system that has proven itself to be reliable on hundreds of vessels ranging from tugboats to ocean going bulk ore carriers and tankers, EMP says.
The Aquarius USV will also be fitted with a sensor pack including several unique sensors, which will be able to collect data from above and below the waterline. The collected data could then either be stored on-board the vessel or transmitted back to a ship or shore office. Data transmission will be possible via Wi-Fi, mobile phone or satellite connections.
EMP adds that a shallow draft (~1 meter) and low height will allow the vessel to operate on urban waterways, rivers, bays and lakes in addition to being suitable for coastal waters and missions at sea. If needed, the masts can also be lowered to give the vessel a stealth capability.
According to EMP’s website, the USV will measure 5 meters long by 8 meters wide, and will be capable of cruising at 6 knots.
EMP says the Aquarius USV design study project started in 2011 and, with lab testing of the technologies to be used already underway, the prototype is scheduled to commence operational tests during 2015.
Of course Eco Marine Power’s design is a long way from the unmanned cargo ships currently being explored by Rolls-Royce, but for now its a step in the right (or wrong) direction.