Three factors driving unmanned surface vehicles

Exploration of maritime protected areas, evolving collaboration between unmanned vehicles and the calibration of long-baseline positioning systems will drive the growth of unmanned surface vehicles, according to a study by TechNavio.

The research group’s latest report on the global unmanned surface vehicle (USV) market provides an analysis of the most important trends expected to impact the market outlook from 2017-2021.

The sector is expected to grow by 14 per cent a year over the next 5 years and be dominated by companies such as ASV Global, Atlas Electronic, ECA, Liquid Robotics, Teledyne Marine and Ocius Technology

According to Bharath Kanniappan, a lead analyst from Technavio, specialising in research on robotics sector, “Vendors capitalise on capabilities such as superior computing and communications along with sophisticated sensors and navigation systems to develop unmanned surface vehicles that can stay in the ocean for long durations without using fuel, manpower, and harming the environment.”

The study suggests that increased demand for maritime systems that can collect information for organisations and governments in sectors such as defense and security, oil and gas, oceanography, and hydrography drives the demand for USVs.

A major demand will come from the Americas, where the Department of Defense in the US is taking initiatives to improve the maritime defense operations with the help of USVs.

While other marine systems lack the operational abilities, persistence, and the robustness to endure the turbulent environment in various water bodies, ASVs have the capability to endure and last for as high as 30 days. Thus, they can help in the collection of spatial and temporal data.

“Australia has an enormous number of MPAs with the Great Barrier Reef as the largest, and most biologically and economically significant of MPAs. ASVs are expected to be employed for a cost-efficient management to manage efficiently and protect the Great Barrier,” Kanniappan said.


Vendors in the USV market are working on innovations, which can allow collaboration between different types of unmanned vehicles to attain efficiency in transportation, deployment, and support and recovery of unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs).

As the use of unmanned marine systems becomes more rampant, vendors will increasingly focus on improving the interoperability between manned and unmanned vehicles as well as different unmanned vehicles.

Vendors are working on R&D to introduce standardised software interfaces that can improve the communications and integration of disparate systems along with ensuring cost-effectiveness, reduction in power consumption, and agility in missions.

Calibration of long-baseline positioning systems

The main concept of using a USV as an aid for a long baseline (LBL) acoustic positioning system is to streamline and simplify the logistics involved with calibration and testing the system. This application was tested by EvaLogics.

EvaLogics manufactures a USV known as Sonobot, which is a lightweight vehicle for hydrographic surveys. Apart from delivering bathymetric data, it also provides a real-time wireless connection to the station onshore.

For LBL positioning, an acoustic transceiver was towed behind the Sonobot, and a wireless connection was configured between the transceiver and a PC running positioning software (SiNAPS).

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