Unmanned Systems Technology 038 l Skyeton Raybird-3 l Data storage l Sea-Kit X-Class USV l USVs insight l Spectronik PEM fuel cells l Blue White Robotics UVIO l Antennas l AUVSI Xponential Virtual 2021 report

56 Insight | USVs cameras (in case remote piloting became necessary) and sensors for operating an integrated remote weapons station. These cameras also help to provide the Orca’s proprietary obstacle avoidance function, through which potentially relevant obstacles are detected at ranges of up to about 10 km. Meteor comments that the obstacle avoidance algorithm deals with distant obstacles by creating new navigation courses for bypassing them safely while minimising deviations from the original planned course. To boost its payload capacity along with speed and endurance, the Orca’s hull is made from composite materials. Its structure has been designed to withstand high-speed wave shocks in rough sea states, and its shape is optimised for achieving planing speeds upwards of 10 knots. The company also says the current comms architecture is VLOS only. With the GCS antenna high above sea level, for example 100 m, the effective range can be about 40 km. That could be extended though by using relays or higher antenna altitudes. Anti-piracy With piracy on the high seas having risen markedly over the past several years, interest has grown in the potential for autonomous vessels to serve as a persistent, low-cost and high-speed surveillance tool, for locating pirates and keeping crews, passengers and cargos at safe distances from them. The Narwhal Star USV has been developed primarily for this application. It has been produced in a collaboration between maritime group Star International, Narwhal itself and USV company UTEK. The system is a customisable, kit-built USV, built around a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) and integrating a 300 nautical- mile data link, as well as payloads such as an EO/IR camera, radar and laser rangefinders. Matthew Ball, director at Star International, says the USV can be built on a variety of Narwhal RIBs, in sizes from 4.2 m upwards. The package includes all automation systems, including computers servos, RF equipment and sensors, and fuel for up to 30 hours of endurance. Its concept of operations is currently centred on traditional cranes and davits for launch and recovery, with a GCS laptop to be installed on a parent vessel or at a port office for operators to view visual, radar and range information about unidentified vessels. Its standard EO/IR offers a range of up to 20 km for detection and 10 km for identification, based on a camera mounted 4-5 m above sea level. Using this information, security authorities can be informed and nearby ships can take evasive action. “The vessel includes options for semi- autonomous or fully autonomous modes, or it can be manned, which greatly helps lower the initial unit cost and training requirements for first adopters,” Ball adds. “But the plan is to offer levels of autonomy with waypoints to reduce the operator’s workload, together with an optional collision avoidance capability. In general, having a person in the loop is critical to distinguishing how threatening an uncooperative vessel is.” Other integration options (depending on the operator’s use-case and budget) include Lidar, AIS, robotic arms for remotely controlled interactions such as grabbing objects or rescuing people who’ve fallen overboard, and a satellite comms link to enable BVLOS operations as well as live sharing and awareness of data, operations and analysis between ships and ports across different regions. Summary USV designs and technologies are reaching new levels of maturity as their manufacturers and operators amass ever more hours of use in harbours and at sea. The use of marine autonomy has largely progressed beyond the exploratory phase towards widespread commercial operations, and customers know better than ever what more they want from their USVs. This market will not become saturated. As more of the oceans become mapped out, new subsea comms cables, energy facilities, research laboratories, fisheries and tourist destinations should be expected. All this maritime infrastructure will need regular monitoring, safeguarding and logistics, and autonomy guarantees the regularity and safe conduct of such operations. Supplying cost-efficient and durable USVs with top-of-the-line survey payloads is likely to become a faster- moving and more competitive market as ocean businesses become more widely established. June/July 2021 | Unmanned Systems Technology The Narwhal Star has been developed in a collaboration between Star International, UTEK and Narwhal for anti- piracy surveillance (Courtesy of Star International)