New Zealand Navy to trial renewable-powered uncrewed surface vessel

The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) will soon take delivery of a 6.8-meter renewable-powered Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) to trial on a short-term lease.

Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN)

The Bluebottle is designed and manufactured by Sydney-based Ocius Technology, which has already provided a number of USVs to the Australian Defence Force and worked with Australian Border Force and other energy and scientific agencies.

USVs can undertake a wide variety of roles for the New Zealand Government. These could include fishery protection, border protection or providing meteorological data, according to the navy.

HMNZS Aotearoa is transporting the vessel from Sydney to Auckland and once operational it will be able to undertake maritime tasks at sea without fuel or personnel on a trial basis.

The solar-, wind- or wave-powered vessel uses a retractable rigid sail to provide wind propulsion. Photo-electric cells on the sail can drive its motor. In the absence of sunlight and wind, Bluebottle has a unique flipper and rudder device to steer and propel itself. It has a top speed of five knots and the ability to operate at sea indefinitely in sea states up to 7 (wave heights of six to nine metres).

Sensors allow both safe and effective control of the system and identification of other vessels.  Sensors include radar, and electro-optic and infra-red cameras.  

The USV will be constantly monitored and operated from a control room at Devonport Naval Base. Communication with the control room is through mobile phone signal while close to shore or via high- and low- bandwidth satellite when further offshore.

The vehicles can be transported by trailer to almost anywhere in New Zealand where it can be launched and recovered from a boat ramp. It can also craned on and off a Navy ship to launch on operations while deployed overseas.