Unmanned Systems Technology 020 | Alpha 800 I Additive Manufacturing focus I USVs insight I Pegasus GE70 I GuardBot I AUVSI Xponential 2018 show report I Solar Power focus I CUAV Expo Europe 2018 show report

46 Insight | USVs the B7X, with users having the option of switching between manned or unmanned operation on board, or switching from the GCS, a choice that can be customised according to operator requirements. “In the case of a ‘pure USV’, you don’t want anyone to remotely hack into the vessel, or for pirates to seize it – although we have also designed in failsafes that can take over, again depending on the concept of operations,” Al Marakeb director Nour Al Sayyed says. Launch and recovery With technological advances occurring in tandem across airborne and surface unmanned systems, new multi-domain USV platforms are beginning to emerge. Here, a USV acts as the ‘mothership’ to one or more other unmanned vehicles, deploying and recovering them for each mission without needing to expose a human launch crew to potentially hazardous seas. Examples of such systems vary greatly in size and configuration. For example, the Hov Pod Infinity USV features a proprietary carbon-Kevlar hull and can act as an autonomous mobile battery swap station or tether station for UAVs. It can carry up to 680 kg. For a more extreme example, SpaceX’s 91 m-long autonomous spaceport drone ships act as the recovery platforms for the company’s Falcon 9 rockets. The variety in the size of unmanned vehicles that could use a USV platform in this context is to be expected of course. The WAM-V technology from Marine Advanced Research can also vary greatly in scale. The system’s patented suspension architecture enables its central platform ‘hub’ (which is supported by four legs connecting to two pontoons through spring-supported ball joints) to remain stationary even as the rest of the craft is buffeted by waves. Each forward leg of the WAM-V rotates freely in all axes relative to the central platform, while the rear arms can pitch and yaw (but not roll) freely. The company has previously demonstrated the deployment of a tethered Teledyne SeaBotix ROV from a 16 ft WAM-V USV’s central platform, along with take-off and landing of a Planck Aerosystems Shearwater UAV from another. The UAV-USV ‘team’ carried out a simulated security patrol, while the ROV-USV pairing located an underwater object spotted by the UAV. “You don’t have to send UUVs off the side, and the stability of the WAM-V makes launch and recovery that much easier,” CEO Mark Gundersen explains. “And the aerial platform can take off and land in higher sea states because of the stable design – the 16 ft WAM-V has been tested successfully up to sea state 3 so far. “There are a lot of things that a multi-domain USV could therefore do, particularly inspection of critical infrastructure such as pipelines, offshore oil platforms, wind turbines or structures such as bridges or piers.” Additional designs include a 130 ft WAM-V that would launch and recover a larger work-class type ROV to minimise the cost of deploying such bulky craft for industries such as offshore oil and gas. “Right now, large manned ships are used for that purpose,” Gundersen points out. “Mine countermeasures could also benefit by relieving human operators from deploying UUVs close to dangerous areas.” The configuration could also enable the delivery of potentially fragile cargo pallets, or the use of hydrographic survey sensors where high-quality imagery is required in environments with strong wind and high waves. Surveying The use of renewable energy technologies to power USVs for longer missions and more efficient operations has already been established by platforms such as the Autonaut or Liquid Robotics’ Wave Glider. Both systems combine solar cells with wave propulsion to provide persistent electrically powered operation for surveying and mapping large swathes of the ocean. The XO-450 from Ireland-based XOcean is the latest such unmanned vessel to be designed with an atypical powertrain to enable persistent ocean surveys. “Ocean data is the foundation for all marine-based activity; the challenge is that it can be expensive and difficult to collect that data,” says James Ives, CEO of XOcean. “According to the OECD, in 2010 the ocean economy was valued at $1.5 trillion [£1.1 trillion/ e 1.26 trillion], with the potential for that to double by 2030. “A key enabler of that growth is ocean data. USVs allow that data to be collected more efficiently and at a lower cost.” To that end, the XO-450 is designed with a hybrid power system, comprising a top deck of solar cells, Lithium-ion batteries and a micro diesel generator, to provide 1050 W of continuous power over 18 days and a range of 1512 nautical miles while carrying up to 100 kg of sensors. June/July 2018 | Unmanned Systems Technology Payloads atop the WAM-V’s central platform are kept stable against the bucking of ocean waves (Courtesy of Marine Advanced Research)