U.S. Navy press release
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) began operating the Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) in the Arabian Gulf, on Jan. 27, expanding the U.S. 5th Fleet’s integration of new unmanned systems.
Task Force 59, NAVCENT’s dedicated staff for new unmanned systems and artificial intelligence discovery, initiated Saildrone operational testing off the coast of Bahrain one month after launching the Saildron in the Gulf of Aqaba.
“The initial Saildrone assessment phase at sea in the Gulf of Aqaba has exceeded our expectations. We are applying the results and rapidly expanding operations.”
Cmdr. Thomas McAndrew, Deputy Commander of Task Force 59
The Saildrone launched in the Gulf of Aqaba on Dec. 12, successfully operated at sea continuously for more than 30 days, demonstrating persistence in a dynamic maritime environment.
The Saildrone Explorer is a 23-foot-long, 16-foot-tall USV reliant on wind power for propulsion. The vessel houses a package of sensors powered through solar energy for building a shared picture of the surrounding seas.
Last September, NAVCENT established Task Force 59 in Bahrain where it is headquartered. The task force has since commenced at-sea evaluations of new Mantas T-12 and Devil Ray T-38 USVs off the coast of Bahrain before International Maritime Exercise (IMX) 2022 in February. IMX is slated to include unmanned systems from partner nations, which will make it the largest unmanned exercise in the world.
“The interest and support from our partners have grown exponentially as we collectively learn from operational testing. We are mutually benefiting from these systems, and the creativity and new use cases can only come from our experience in the water.”
Ongoing evaluations of new unmanned systems in the U.S. 5th Fleet help drive discovery, innovation, and fleet integration. The U.S. Navy is learning important lessons that will inform future operational employment.
The Middle East region’s unique geography, climate, and strategic importance offer an ideal environment for unmanned innovation through multilateral collaboration. The area includes the world’s largest standing maritime partnership called Combined Maritime Forces as well as key waterways vital to global commerce.
Naval News comments:
The Saildrone Explorer is a unique vehicle powered by wind and solar energies. It is designed to carry a payload of sensors to collect data above and below the sea surface. A 15-foot (5 m) wing provides wind power for forwarding propulsion and solar panels power onboard science and navigation instruments. Saildrones can be equipped with an acoustic payload for specific mission requirements: a single-beam or multibeam sonar for bathymetry, an echo sounder for fisheries surveys, or an ADCP for current measurements. The Saildrone was showcased at Sea Air Space 2021, here is our video coverage.
Saildrone Explorer Technical specifications:
Propulsion: wind (Saildrone wing)
Average speed: 3 knots
Endurance 12+ months