The sector of unmanned marine surface vehicles UPS (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) will reach a market value of 1,513 million USD this year, which will exceed 3,096 million USD in 5 years.
As with aircraft and unmanned ground vehicles, marine unmanned surface vehicles are experiencing tremendous growth. We will leave the analysis of the UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles) submarine for another moment and focus on the military operating on the surface.
Initially, applications focused on borders, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), submarine detection, and mine control as targets for the practice of surface weapons and, to a lesser extent, offensive weapon systems.
The constant advancement of technology and the realization of systems that work safely and effectively and at the same time can minimize the risk to humans, however, lead to the fact that new programs and developments are created. Aside from the purely military field, there are many that are applicable to the civilian world, such as environmental research, underwater exploration, and especially those used by the hydrocarbon industry.
At the same time, private companies and research centers are working together with navies and navies to develop UPS solutions. Recent US, British or Canadian Navy treaties only confirm the usefulness of these systems.
This is mainly due to two advantages, e.g. B. performing dangerous missions without putting people’s lives at risk, especially when fighting mines, and the ability to persist at sea that results from an increasing autonomy, both of which in relation to these relates to the greater number of Days of operation in terms of automating your missions.
Photo: The Aister storm, a key element in Navantia SVAP (Aister photo).
Companies around the world have become aware of this situation and both specialized companies and large shipbuilders have entered the sector, resulting in acquisitions and creating a profitable environment for collaboration between platforms and systemists.
In addition, the combination of different platforms with more or less displacement or autonomy and a modular structure that allows the integration of different devices allows the configuration of solutions for every need, being command and control, weapons, ISR, mine and Other mine protection systems are used as required.
There are two economic factors favoring the acquisition, as on the one hand there is an increasing use of manned platforms to convert them into unmanned or optionally manned platforms rather than developing new ones and not having to install all the necessary equipment for human life on board, therefore only required to have fuel, power generation and storage capacity, and ammunition to continue their mission.
These are mainly the areas of ISR, investigation, mine control (MCM) and surface threats ASuW (Anti Surface Warfare), protection of own armed forces, search and rescue from SAR (Search and Rescue) and the fight against submarine threats ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) ). . In addition, they are a valuable instrument in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), in which the costs they contain make it possible to deploy more units and ensure a presence almost permanently.
One of the main programs of this year is the signing of the UISS (Unmanned Influence Sweep System) of the US Navy, which is based on the CUSV (Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle) from Textron Systems. The UISS will be the first UPS system to enter service in the U.S. Navy dedicated to mine warfare and the use of interchangeable payloads and advanced sensors, including side-scan sonar, mine neutralization equipment, non-lethal weapons or equipment. ISR.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy’s so-called Phantom Fleet continues to take shape with the development of two types of unmanned ships that completed several days of autonomous navigation in June. Navy Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) Ghost Fleet Overlord envisages the development of a large UPS or LUSV (Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle) of more than 50 m. in length and a MUSV (Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle) between 12 and 50 m.
While the smallest is used to carry sensors and as a communications relay, the largest detects the threat to fleets in the form of long-range anti-ship missiles. To intercept them, they are equipped with anti-aircraft missiles such as the standard SM-6, which can also be used against surface targets and against ballistic devices in the final stages.
Photo: La Victoria de Ferri with the Escribano systems (EM & E)
Previously, in 2018, the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) received its largest UPS, the Sea Hunter, from the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA), a 140-ton trimaran. Developed for combat against submarines under the ACTUV (ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel) program. It is a ship that can sail between 60 and 90 days and cover 6,200 km. without maintenance or replenishment as a means of detecting and destroying submarines.
As with UAVS and UGV, Israel has positioned itself in this sector for years and has been patrolling with such means from the coast of the Gaza Strip to Lebanon since 2009. They are used in the fight against terrorism and have gone into combat, participated in the sea blockade of Gaza in Operation Cast Lead 2009 and intercepted ships that smuggled arms during the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the area in 2009 or 2012 Hamas.
Elbit Systems’ developments with Seagull and Rafael’s Protector are remarkable. The first is a UPS designed to carry out multiple missions from interchangeable mission modules such as mine or anti-submarine modules, for which demonstrations have been made, as well as torpedo launch or anti-submarine, with an autonomy of 96 h.
The Protector is in service in Israel and Singapore, which acquired it in 2004 and used it a year later on anti-piracy missions in the Persian Gulf and Adam. It is based on the conversion of a 9m RHIB inflatable boat with a rigid hull. of length and 5 tons. It has interchangeable mission modules and a Typhoon RCWS (Remote Controlled Weapons System) that can include up to Spike LR missiles and has carried out several demonstrations, including protecting NATO ships or launching the above missiles.
News in Spain
In Spain, an important step has been taken in this area with the implementation of the SVAP (Nearby Waters Surveillance System) designed by Navantia and selected by the Ceuta Port Authority in 2017, which includes the Vendaval UPS, designed by AISTER and equipped with Navantia systems. It is the first UPS to be commissioned in Spain and can be remotely controlled from a control point on land to perform monitoring and security tasks in the port area in addition to environmental control.
For this purpose, it is equipped with sensors such as radar, sonar, GPS and inertial navigation system, weather station, electro-optical cameras and AIS system for ship identification. It can work autonomously on predefined routes or waypoints or be remotely controlled and count with an automatic docking pier in the port.
It is 10.23 m. In length it is powered by an outboard motor, reaches 25 knots, sends AIS data from ships remotely, marks the location of a spill by coloring it with an additive or towing boats up to 1 ton thanks to one Hook. The Advanced Features of Unmanned Vehicles Project in the Navantia Sea Area was selected by the Defense Department’s General Directorate of Armaments and Materials (DGAM) to be eligible to fund its part in the defense.
AISTER has also developed the Ocean Master, a UPS for ocean missions in complex environments, which can also be used as a submarine (UUV) thanks to a design based on variable geometry wings. It can be used for search and rescue missions, surveillance, salvage, port security, fleet protection, coastal warfare or mine warfare. It can carry 1 ton. Cargo, including one SAES side-scan sonar and another to detect divers and targets in the water column.
In September Escribano Mechanical & Engineering and Ferri updated the UPS Victoria proposal, including the ASPIS Light Remote Employment Station. It is a 12 m semi-rigid boat. in length 4 tons. and equipped with 2,300 hp engines that allow it to reach 50 knots. It is an unmanned platform for security and defense applications as well as offshore applications. It can be remotely controlled and perform autonomous navigation, avoiding any kind of fixed or moving objects that are on its course.
Ferri developed and commercialized this technology by making it available for installation in any type of ship regardless of its size. Escribano has equipped it with the SCOA (Advanced Observation and Combat System), which consists of a Sentinel 2.0 station in the bow and an electro-optical OTEOS-N sensor on a mast behind the cockpit in which the systems are located. This configuration is now updated with the ASPIS station. It is ideal for day and night surveillance, detection and interception missions in all atmospheric conditions and becomes a valuable tool for coastal protection against the threat of illegal ships involved in illegal activities.
Another national UPS was launched in October, the Kaluga DS (Defense & Security), developed by the Spanish company UTEK, which includes a 12.7mm Lionfish Ultra Light remote workstation. from Leonardo Hispania and a monitoring sensor MLT-SUR-STM from Miltech. It was developed from a semi-rigid Narwhal 670 boat that is remotely controlled from a portable control station on land or on another ship. It was tested thanks to the Spanish Navy at the Algameca Naval Station in Cartagena (Murcia) and offered to protect facilities or ships, or to cover funds in conflict areas.
Another national novelty was the presentation of a specific autopilot for UPS by UAV Navigation, which includes common features in its systems for UAVs, such as waypoint tracking, mission planning, definition of restricted areas and the ability to determine relative routes when the control panel is activated board Ship.
It is completely autonomous and allows the entire mission to be carried out even if communication with the command post is interrupted. It contains advanced functions such as the determination of routes that minimize the impact of waves, the monitoring of systems in real time or the automation of maneuvers maneuvers. Approach to avoid collisions. There are other national developments. For example, SCR has developed USV from its Spayk surface marine targets, specifically the 3m I. of length and II of 4.5 and 4.5 hours of autonomy normally used by the Spanish Navy for towing training targets.
Ksins has another UPS 5.5 m. In length and 2 tons. The UPS that is used to test the Defensor de Mar Naveo concept (developed by Breogn Ingeniera and Aeronutica de Galicia), a UPS that can be configured for observation and monitoring, is up with an RCWS and another configuration for rescue Lake equipped. Indra founded the company Seadrone in Galicia and works in a UPS for search and rescue, surveillance of ports, parks and maritime facilities, customs control and investigations that it has already tested in Vigo.
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