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Renewable-Powered Autonomous Boat Being Tested by New Zealand Navy

The 22.3-foot boat will be used for surveillance, fishery protection, border protection and meteorological data collection

Scarlett Evans

December 8, 2023

2 Min Read
Bluebottle USV
The Royal New Zealand Navy

The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) is set to deploy a renewable-powered Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) for consistent surveillance, offering fishery protection, border protection and meteorological data collection.

Dubbed "Bluebottle,” the 22.3-foot boat was designed and built by Sydney-based Ocius Technology, which has already sold several USVs to the Australian Defence Force.

The boat is currently being transported from Sydney to Auckland. The RNZN said that, once operational, the USV will “be able to undertake maritime tasks at sea without fuel or personnel,” and will be tested on a trial basis.

The boat uses solar, wind and wave power to operate. hoto-electric cells placed on its sails drive the motor. In the absence of sunlight and wind, the Bluebottle also has a flipper and rudder device to steer and propel itself.

It is also fitted with an array of sensors for effective navigation, including radar, electro-optic and infrared cameras.

A remote team will constantly monitor and operate the USV from a control room at Devonport Naval Base. The USV and control room will communicate through mobile phone signals while close to shore or via high- and low- bandwidth satellite when further offshore.

The boat is hoped to provide support to search and surveillance teams operating in the area, already stretched thin by the large scale of the region’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Related:Ford Self-Driving Boat Pilot to Create Autonomous Shipping Routes

“Our EEZ is the fifth largest in the world at more than 2.4 million miles,” said Commodore Garin Golding, RNZN’s maritime component commander. “Coupled with the 18 million square miles search and rescue area that New Zealand has responsibility for, that is a lot of ocean to cover,

“The evidence we’ve seen from our partner militaries overseas is that uncrewed drone aircraft and vessels can provide real value in fulfilling some of these search and surveillance tasks.”

“The Bluebottle has already undertaken a range of activities in support of the Australian government for long periods of time without the need for refueling, recharging or crew respite,” said Commander Andy Bryant, RNZN’s autonomous systems staff officer.

The USV can be transported via trailer for deployment almost anywhere in New Zealand or craned on and off a Navy ship for launch while overseas.

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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