Imagine a Royal New Zealand Navy vessel with no one inside. That is exactly what the RNZN is testing out to undertake a variety of roles for the NZ government.
The 6.8-metre renewable-powered Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) is being tested out by the RNZN in the hope of replacing roles usually done by humans.
Offering everything from fishery monitoring border protection to providing meteorological data, the RNZN’s USV named Bluebottle, is on trial in Auckland.
Currently being transported from Sydney-based Ocius Technology, the vessel will undertake maritime tasks without fuel or personnel on a short-term trial.
Bluebottle will be using energy powered by solar, wind and waves to drive the vessel, has a top speed of five knots and can operate at sea indefinitely in sea states up to seven (wave heights of six to nine metres).
The USV is already being used by the Australian Defence Force, Border Force, and other energy and scientific agencies.
RNZN introduced the use of the USV due to the sheer size of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Maritime Component Commander Commodore Garin Golding sees potential in the capability of the vessel.
“Our EEZ is the fifth largest in the world at more than four million square kilometres. Coupled with the 30 million square kilometre search and rescue area that New Zealand has responsibility for, that is a lot of ocean to cover,” says Golding.
“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.”
Already the Bluebottle has undertook long-term tasks for the Australian Government without the need for refuelling, recharging or crew respite, which Golding says could be beneficial for our RNZN.
“I’m confident we will see similar benefits from the time we have with the vessel, particularly a better understanding of how to operate and sustain uncrewed vessels, and this will provide a great opportunity to share experiences on the new system with the Royal Australian Navy,” adds Golding.
Despite being unmanned, the USV will be constantly monitored and operated from a control room at Devonport Naval Base.