Saildrone announced the launch of its first aluminium Surveyor unmanned surface vehicle (USV) from the Austal USA production line in Mobile, Alabama. Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Lisa Franchetti was on site Monday to inspect the vehicle, ahead of these new USVs being tested under contract to the US Navy.

Primarily designed for ocean mapping and maritime domain awareness, the Saildrone Surveyor USV is powered by wind, solar and a diesel generator for long-range, long-endurance missions in the open ocean.

The Surveyor carries the latest multibeam sonar equipment for seafloor mapping to depths of 11,000 metres and purpose-built defence and security payloads for accurate, dynamic and confident decisions and responses to the full spectrum of maritime threats and challenges. Upcoming Navy missions will focus on the ability of the Surveyor to deliver both surface and undersea intelligence for a range of high-priority applications, including anti-submarine warfare (ASW).

New fleet of USVs

To meet the increasing demand for Surveyor USVs, Saildrone partnered with Austal USA to leverage their advanced manufacturing production techniques and rapid assembly capabilities. Austal is currently producing one Surveyor every six weeks, with the ability to scale up production as demand requires.

“It is tremendous to see the first vehicle launched of many that will be produced here in Alabama,” said Saildrone founder and CEO Richard Jenkins. “We are honoured to have Admiral Franchetti here in person to witness the start of the creation of a new fleet of USVs alongside traditional manned ships. Everyone at Saildrone is very proud to be supporting the US Navy and contributing to our defence and national security.”

At 20 metres and weighing 15 tons, the Surveyor classifies as a medium USV, built to American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) Light Warship code. These first Surveyors are contracted to the US Navy for the initial testing and evaluation of Surveyor-class vehicles in multiple environments.

“Using unmanned assets helps put more players in the field by freeing up manned assets for more specific and important tasks,” said Franchetti. “It’s good to see high-tech industry partnering with the traditional shipbuilding industrial base to rapidly deliver cutting-edge products at scale.”

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