Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV)

Research-focused Unmanned Surface Vehicles, or USVs, are remotely-operated or autonomous marine platforms designed for a diverse range of applications across marine science, environmental monitoring, surveying and data collection. Equipped with a variety of sensors, USVs collect data on parameters such as water quality, temperature, and atmospheric conditions.
Overview Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV)
By Staff Writer Last updated: June 3rd, 2024

What is a USV?

Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs) are robotic systems that operate on the water’s surface without a human crew onboard.

HydroBoat 1200 Multi-mission USV by SatLab Geosolutions

HydroBoat 1200 Multi-mission USV by SatLab Geosolutions

Functioning autonomously or operated remotely, unmanned surface vehicles utilize advanced navigation systems, communication technologies, and sensors to carry out a wide variety of tasks. These vessels are manufactured specifically to undertake missions that are often too expensive, time-consuming, or dangerous for humans.

USV & AUV Navigation
USV and AUV (Autonomous Surface Vehicles) can be equipped with sophisticated AI and machine learning technology for navigation of complex environments, obstacle avoidance, and for making in-the-water decisions without requiring human intervention.

High-accuracy inertial navigation and GPS systems enable precise USV route planning and positioning in challenging conditions.

USV Design & Payloads
USVs are often built with modular designs and payload bays, to facilitate the quick integration of technology and sensors such as cameras, environmental monitoring tools, and sonar.

Modern communication systems enable operators to control USVs from crewed vessels or from land, supplying live video feeds and data updates.

Robust Construction
USVs are developed to withstand extreme marine conditions. They are usually manufactured using hard-wearing materials that are resistant to collisions and corrosion. In addition, fail-safes and redundant systems aim to provide reliability and continuous operation, even in adverse environments.

Unmanned Surface Vessel Applications

USVs are ideally suited to a range of defense and security applications, in particular surveillance and reconnaissance in and offshore installations, harbors, and coastal areas, able to equip radar and cameras to identify and monitor potential threats. In addition to this, surface robotics can be utilized for mine countermeasure operations, deployed to locate and neutralize naval mines to provide safe passage for larger vessels.

In marine research, particularly environmental monitoring, USVs are crucial for their ability to collect valuable and detailed datasets on water temperature, quality, and marine life, without the cost or risks associated with human data collection. Uncrewed and autonomous surface vessels are also key technologies for hydrographic surveys, mapping the seafloor with high-resolution sonar and supporting the study of underwater geography. 

Inspection and maintenance are crucial capabilities in commercial shipping, specifically for the hulls of ships, underwater pipelines, and offshore platforms. USVs can detect potential issues and reduce the need for manned dives. Emerging applications include using USVs for cargo logistics and transport, notably in areas where conventional shipping methods are impractical.

The aftermath of natural disasters can see USVs quickly delivering supplies, assessing damage, and locating survivors, carrying out search and rescue operations in conditions that would be dangerous for humans or crewed vessels. This emergency support capability in disaster response is incredibly important, with USVs also able to aid in day-to-day maritime search and rescue operations, designed as a rapid response capability that improves mission effectiveness.

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