Unmanned SAR vessel
Italian military boat builder Effebi is developing an autonomous vessel that can be used for search and rescue operations writes Dag Pike.
Working in cooperation with Meccano Engineering and IDS, the company has a 16 metre prototype under construction that will be able to fulfil a variety of military and workboat roles.
Called SAND (Surface Advanced Naval Drone), this project is aimed at developing a basic marine USV that can meet the requirements of many different operational scenarios. Amongst the requirements are an outstanding sea-keeping capability and being able to support many different mission systems and configurations. Included in the research programme is a portable remote control station linked to the USV with alternative robust and redundant communications system.
The design that has been developed is 16 metres in length with a beam of 4 metres. With a raised central superstructure the vessel is designed to be self-righting, allowing it to operate in severe conditions. Power comes from a pair of MAN 588kW diesel engines coupled to water jet propulsion and this combination is projected to give a top speed of 36 knots. At lower speeds the vessel will have an endurance of 48 hours at 12 knots and 72 hours at 8 knots allowing the vessel to carry out extended patrol duties.
The hull is a deep vee monohull and construction is in advanced composites. For SAR duties the vessel will carry four 100 person self-inflating liferafts that can be remotely released from a central deck area that can be remotely released. There will also be large screen displays on the side of the vessel and loudspeakers to communicate with survivors and the vessel will be equipped with electronics designed for the detection of casualties.
To operate in the autonomous mode the designers have developed electronic systems for automatic routing and autonomous navigation whilst cameras can send back pictures to the control station. An automatic collision avoidance system is also incorporated. In addition, there is a comprehensive suite of conventional electronic navigation equipment.
The prototype is being built as a search and rescue craft but other civilian roles envisaged for SAND are environmental monitoring and hydrographic surveying. Maritime security is another role with the capability of surveillance both above and below the water.
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