UAVs are old hat nowadays -- they've been overhead for nearly a decade. The next frontier in unmanned vehicles isn't in the air; it's on the waves. The Piranha Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) could revolutionise ocean-based military operations drones have done for the skies.
The Piranha USV prototype, developed by Zyvex Marine, is a 16m long drone boat that costs an estimated $US2 million, and weighs approximately 3600kg -- significantly lighter than conventional boats of a similar size. The low weight allows the Piranha to carry 6800kg of cargo, nearly double its own weight, over 2500 nautical miles. The efficient vessel also sips fuel, consuming only 45 litres an hour when cruising at 24 knots. A conventional boat would suck down 190 litres an hour moving at the same speed.
The Piranha's weight savings don't come exclusively from the removal of people-centric aspects. Its unique design also helps shave pounds. The hull is constructed from a proprietary material called Avorex, a carbon fibre weave reinforced with carbon-nanotube-doped epoxy, which increases the material's strength and stiffness.
"This isn't science fiction anymore. We're taking a decade of research into nano-enhanced materials and applying it to real applications outside of the laboratory," Lance Criscuolo, President of Zyvex Technologies, told PRWeb.
Needless to say, the Piranha is popular among defence contractors. While UAVs have the advantage of a wide coverage angle, USVs have the advantage of longevity. As UAVs need to eventually land and refuel, USVs can simply sit there and wait, keeping an eye on their target almost indefinitely since they aren't burning fuel. The Piranha's fuel efficiency makes it a prime candidate for coastal patrols, harbour security, anti-piracy operations and even anti-submarine warfare.
"This is a cost-effective platform that will enable useful unmanned surface vessel operations for the United States and our allies," said Russell Belden, Vice President of the Advanced Composite Solutions group for Zyvex Technologies. "Unmanned aerial operations have proved essential over the last decade, and we believe that this platform will deliver a future of secure harbors and safety on the high seas." [MobileMag, PRWeb, Gizmag, Zyvex Marine]
First look at the prototype USV.
On patrol near Seattle in Puget Sound.