Uncrewed Systems Technology 051 l Primoco One 150 l Power management l Ocius Bluebottle USV l Steel E-Motive robotaxi l UAVs insight l Xponential 2023 p Issue 51 Aug/Sept 2023 art 2 l Aant Farm TPR72 l Servos l Tampa Deep Sea Barracuda AUV

52 Dane adds that from 2020-22, Covid-19 showed that, unlike crewed naval inspection assets, USVs could be launched and operated 24/7 during pandemics, using satellite-based handoffs of control from one GCS operator to another, regardless of distance. “We completed a contract to build and demonstrate five next-gen Bluebottles for the armed forces out of Darwin in March 2022,” Dane says. “When border force admirals realised that it had been a demonstration contract and it had finished, the USVs were quickly brought back on board. That culminated in the purchase of five new units, which concluded recently.” Most recently, in June this year, Ocius signed a AU$2.7 million 12-month contract to operate four Bluebottles for the RAN. The Bluebottle’s anatomy The Bluebottle is a single-hull vessel with one sail, both sail and top deck being covered with solar cells. The deck is referred to as a false or solar deck, as the real deck sits under it, directly enclosing the USV’s internal bays, with the top solar deck placed on top separately. Inside the hull are three compartments. At the front is a mechatronics bay containing the sail and rudder controls, while a 600 litre payload bay sits at the middle and is designated for a customer’s use. In a ‘standard-issue’ Bluebottle this is largely empty, save for a 150 kg winch that drops and displaces water ballast in the keel so as not to change displacement or trim. The payload bay meanwhile can take another 150 kg of dry systems. “The rudder is at the front and has a flipper on it,” Dane comments. “The flipper is how we harness wave power for propulsion: you point the rudder where you want to go, and the boat heads in that direction. That layout also frees up a lot of space in the aft and separates the mechatronics from the main computers.” Various systems can be lowered in and out of the water using the winch. For example, Ocius is working with Thales to integrate and test the latter’s thin-line fibre optic towed array on the winch in multiple Bluebottles. This will enable autonomous detection, classification and localisation of any surface or subsurface vehicles emitting or reflecting acoustic noise. Long range low-frequency underwater comms will also be integrated as part of that project for covert comms from the USVs to underwater allied vehicles or infrastructure. The third compartment at the aft is an electronics section. It contains seven watertight boxes corresponding to key functions such as the main computer, navigation, power management, control and comms. These enclosures interface with a rearmounted mast, where additional payloads such as cameras and radars, as well as other mission-critical systems such as mesh radios or GNSS antennas, are mounted. “The mast is also easily customised for whatever the user wants,” Dane says. “The boats going to Japan for example will have mast-mounted GNSS, and downward-pointing cameras looking for fluorescence in the water. “A lot of the Bluebottle is customisable; sensors for example change a lot depending on customer needs and preferences. What tends to stay the same between missions – our real core IP on the USV – are our zero-emissions power and energy systems for longendurance, highly persistent propulsion that enable it to go on until every autonomous mission is completed.” The Bluebottle is considered by Ocius to be at a TRL of 9, and is approved by AMSA (the Australian Maritime Safety Authority) to operate unescorted anywhere in Australia’s EEZ. This had enabled it to accrue 23,798 nautical miles of survey distance at the time of writing. August/September 2023 | Uncrewed Systems Technology The solar cells on the sail and top deck are provided by Solbian, and are prized by Ocius for their environmental ruggedness