Singapore-based unmanned maritime systems developer Zycraft has produced a logistics-optimised variant of the Dolphin rescue unmanned surface vessel (USV), the company told Jane’s.
According to Zycraft president James Soon, the company has developed the BacPac sea transfer module to carry payloads of up to 10 kg between ships that are unable to manoeuvre alongside each other due to sea conditions or security concerns.
The baseline Dolphin rescue USV measures 1,150 mm long, 800 mm wide, and 250 mm tall, and has a displacement of 13 kg. It can operate for up to 30 minutes between charges and is powered by a pair of electric waterjets that propel it at speeds of up to 8 kt.
“The Dolphin is a product created by OceanAlpha in January 2019 for man overboard or distress person situations at sea,” said Soon, adding that the USV has been designed to be operated by one person – with minimal training – via a handheld controller.
The USV can be deployed off the stern or sides of a vessel and recovered using a grapnel hook or line lift, although it can also be extracted from the water by hand if conditions permit. A weight transfer device enables the sea vehicle to be lifted out of the water without excessive induced motion.
“It can be radio controlled to 500 m range and is usable under most sea conditions and has been proven in at least Sea State 3,” Soon added. “It can be dropped from a height of 20 m from the deck of a merchant ship or a bridge over a river.”
Soon highlighted that the BacPac module enhances the command radius of the Dolphin USV beyond 500 m by exploiting commercially available communication 4G or LTE networks, enabling the USV to be controlled from a shore-based control station.
The sea vehicle can also be configured as a perimeter surveillance platform with an onboardcamera and additional lithium ion batteries.
“The BacPac unit will also carry additional battery packs to enhance the endurance of the Dolphin and make use of the camera and AIS receiver to conduct surveillance in front of a protected area,” Soon explained. “This would make it among the lowest cost USV for security purpose to at least provide visual surveillance over a large frontage …endurance of well over 12 hours is expected.”
According to Soon, the baseline Dolphin USV is already being delivered to customers globally with the BacPac module expected to be ready for orders by April.
The company is also in discussions to demonstrate the system for port logistics.
Comment Several naval forces and maritime agencies have used USVs to validate shore-to-ship and ship-toshore logistics operations, although the concept has yet to gain widespread traction. A particular technical challenge, for example, the reliable and safe retrieval of unmanned logistics platforms, which can be risky to both USV (and its potentially valuable cargo) as well as the recovery vessel.However, smaller and easily recoverable platforms such as the BacPac-equipped Dolphin USV could be attractive as a ‘last-mile’ delivery system in relatively benign conditions.