The US Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) has announced that it’s testing and evaluating the use of unmanned surface vehicles off the south shore of Oahu, HI. The purpose of the tests is to evaluate each vessel’s ability to provide “persistent maritime domain awareness, especially in remote areas of the oceans.” The USCG press release said that while the unmanned vessels could potentially assist with many Coast Guard missions, they are exploring their ability to help the Coast Guard “better protect critical natural living marine resources from Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and other illicit activities.”
The tests, scheduled to run from October 7 to November 5, focus on autonomous vessel systems from Saildrone and Spatial Integration Systems, in addition to a USCG-owned autonomous research vessel made by Metal Shark.
According to Seapower magazine the Coast Guard awarded two contracts for unmanned vessels in February, the first to Alameda-based company Saildrone. The Saildrone — a wind- and solar-powered autonomous surface vehicle with “patented wing technology” — was designed and manufactured as the result of “10 years of R&D in pursuit of the land speed record.”
They awarded the second contract to Spatial Integrated Systems (SIS) of Virginia. SIS partnered with MetalCraft Marine U.S. to marry the SIS Multi-Agent Robotic Teams (SMART™) Autonomy System and the MetalCraft 7m Interceptor Boat to create “an intelligent, goal-oriented autonomous USV.”
The contracts total close to $1.8 million. Both vessels will be owned and operated by the contracted companies throughout the testing.
The third vessel in the test is the Sharktech 29 Defiant, supplied by Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics in partnership with shipbuilder Metal Shark Boats, of Jeanerette, Louisiana.
The Coast Guard said, “Following the completion of the evaluation, the RDC will publish a report with recommendations for potential future actions for the Coast Guard.”