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

starting to build a scale model. But with rising border tensions around the world, and in particular the war in Ukraine, we’ve been asked about producing a high-speed, over-the-horizon vessel that could also be a ‘sacrificial buddy’ for defence or special forces. “As a company, we’ve gone from about 10 people in mid-2021 to 45 now, so we’re able to take our technology in more directions simultaneously. It really is an exciting time to be designing and building autonomous systems.” 56 Digest | Ocius Bluebottle USV Other projects In addition to the various projects mentioned, Ocius is also under contract with Australia’s Department of Defence to build an autonomous robotic system for the launch and recovery of UUVs, currently being developed as a solution called the iDrogue. “We’ve noticed at war game-type exercises involving Bluebottles that when it’s been playing mothership to an AUV, there’s been something lacking in launch and recovery methods,” Dane says. “Normally a small Bluefin-9 or Remus 100 type AUV for instance is launched by personnel in a RIB who just throw it overboard, but then to recover it they have to physically hoist it out, which is a precarious job. I asked why they didn’t use a net, and they said nets can damage the sensors. “We then asked why they didn’t use an ROV to capture the AUV while the latter sits stably at a calm depth, instead of when it’s on the surface oscillating up and down with the waves. In a nutshell, that is where the iDrogue came from.” Although the exact specifications of the iDrogue are undisclosed (it only exists as a first prototype), the concept consists of a boat-launched, tethered system, equipped with sonar, cameras and a means of communication with the AUV, and designed to make it unnecessary to modify AUVs for compatibility with the iDrogue. Once the iDrogue has identified the AUV using its sensors and comms, it will approach it using eight azimuthing thrusters disposed about a hollow tubular hull (matching the torpedo-like shape of most AUVs). At the front of the hull is an aperture to allow the AUV to enter. Four soft robotic arms made of a flexible housing material can grasp and undulate to first manipulate the AUV into the aperture, then hold it there. The iDrogue hence resembles a squid, moving and recovering an AUV as a squid devours its prey. Dane says, “I see myself increasingly handing off production and operation of Bluebottles to a separate team, and focusing more on our growing ecosystem of uncrewed systems, like the iDrogue, the Bathy and a newer USV concept we’re nicknaming Shipmate. “The Shipmate is essentially an 11 m Bluebottle with a range of 125 nautical miles at a speed of 35 knots, carrying 250 kg of payload. It’ll use something other than a solar sail, and we’re now August/September 2023 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Bluebottle USV Solar-electric Length: 6.8 m Beam: 1.1 m Draft: 1.4 m Height above waterline: 300 mm to hull, with a varying aft mast height depending on mission, 4 m with solar sail Height overall: 7 m Maximum power output: 3 kW Maximum speed: 6 knots Operating speed: 2-3 knots Onboard energy storage: 21 kWh Maximum endurance: Theoretically unlimited Propulsion: Combined solar power via propeller, wind via sail and wave via rudder flipper; exact combination depends on local conditions Payload capacity: 600 kg Some key suppliers Design: 123 Design Construction: Van Munster Boats Solar cells: Solbian and Praxis High-bandwidth satcom: Certus Low-bandwidth satcom: Iridium Mesh radios: Silvus Sonar array: Thales Australia Specifications A comms mast sits at the rear, where antennas for GNSS and data links are mounted