November 14, 2023
The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has awarded what it says is the first-ever classification for an autonomous, uncrewed surface vehicle (USV).
Developed by ocean data collection company Saildrone, the 32-foot USV, dubbed Saildrone Voyager, is used for measuring ocean depth and maritime security.
With the new classification, the Voyager can now operate in ports and waters in certain countries that require vehicle certifications.
“Saildrone has spent three years maturing the Voyager design to be the industry leader in capability, reliability, and safety in the uncrewed vehicle sector,” said Richard Jenkins, Saildrone’s CEO. “This classification from the American Bureau of Shipping defines the new gold standard for uncrewed systems and underscores the maturity of our technology.”
The Voyager is fitted with an array of sensors including smart cameras, digital radars and sub-surface “passive acoustics” to map coastal ocean areas.
Saildrone says it aims to build the “world's largest high-resolution ocean data sets.” Its USVs can be used to generate insights on ocean health and security, monitoring everything from carbon cycling and weather forecasting to the impact of the fishing industry and climate change on the ocean.
Saildrone USVs are primarily powered by wind and solar energy, making them an environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution for long-duration ocean data missions.
“Uncrewed drone vehicles have huge potential to change the way we operate at sea and are a first step towards commercial autonomous vessels,” said Patrick Ryan, ABS’ chief technology officer. “Saildrone Voyager is exciting technology and a key milestone on the road to more autonomous operations and we are proud to be able to use our experience to support it.”
Earlier last summer, ABS granted Approval in Principle, which helps clients evaluate the feasibility of their designs, for the Voyager and Saildron’s 65-foot Surveyor platform.
In October, Saildrone reached a milestone of having operated for 10 years, with its fleet of USVs having sailed 1,042,620 nautical miles and spent 32,438 days at sea
“This million-nautical-mile milestone is a huge achievement in a relatively short time frame,” said Jenkins. “It underscores the reliability we have achieved and confirms our unique position as the only proven long-range, long-dwell USV.”
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