iXblue launches unique autonomous craft
The French company iXblue is involved in a wide range of maritime areas including advanced electronic systems, ship building and defence requirements. This wide experience has been used to develop a unique autonomous surface vessel that has been named DriX.
With its proven offshore navigation capabilities and a top-speed that is claimed to be unique in its category, DriX promises to take the unmanned vessel concept role several stages further.
DriX was born from an in-house survey requirement and has been specially designed to take advantage of its unmanned nature. Constructed from composite materials and with a revolutionary hull shape that has been optimised for both coastal and offshore missions, DriX operates with excellent stability which it is claimed guarantees the best possible results, with unmatched performance in rough seas.
“Our aim was to create an USV (Unmanned Surface Vessel) that was truly multi-role and which would expand the working domains of a traditional research vessel. In order to do that, we needed a vehicle that was light, resilient and with high-endurance.” Guillaume Eudeline, Business Development Manager for the Shipyard Division at iXblue explained. “We also wanted to take full advantage of its unmanned nature, which meant that it was designed by our shipyard, without any references to a human carrier hull shape. This is how we created a truly independent, safe, multi-role USV that saves manpower. DriX is really bringing an added value to the market.”
Consisting of a main body, a mast and a gondola which is bolted onto a drop keel, the hull of DriX is 7.7 metres long and 0.7 metres wide, with a draft of 2.0 metres. This long narrow hull gives DriX a wave piercing capability that allows a more level ride in rough seas. The sensor payload is housed in the gondola 2 metres below the surface in a water environment that is relatively noise and turbulence free. The gondola and its drop keel support can be retracted into the hull and mast to simplify launch and recovery. The ability to change the gondola and its payloads makes DriX especially suitable for multiple applications such as exploration, pre-site installation, touchdown monitoring, undersea inspection, decommissioning, as well as environmental, geophysical, and hydrographic surveys. Should a change of payload occur, the electronic cabinets, housed in the main body, are easily accessible and removable, allowing for a swift and easy switch. The data gathered can be transmitted through WiFi or radio transmissions. It can also, if necessary, be retrieved manually through an on-board retrieval plug.
Powered by a 37hp diesel engine driving a single propeller DriX can reach a top speed of 15 knots and can have an endurance of up to 7 days. Multiple navigation options are also available such as autopilot, remote supervisor action, a “follow-me” function and a “hovering” mode, all of which are claimed to be COLREGs compliant.
By Dag Pike
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