Mid-Size USV Developed to Expand Data Collection at Sea

To meet the growing demand for advanced data-collection capabilities at sea, Saildrone has developed the 33-foot Voyager for near-shore ocean mapping and maritime security missions By Caroline Rees / 03 Apr 2023
Voyager testing 2005
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Saildrone is releasing a new, mid-size class of Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) specifically designed for near-shore ocean and lakebed mapping, and to meet the challenges of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), law enforcement and maritime safety, drug interdiction, and border and harbor security.

Saildrone’s three USV models—the new 33-foot (10 m) Voyager along with the already established 23-foot (7 m) Explorer and 65-foot (20 m) Surveyor—have been developed to balance mission payload flexibility and endurance. 

The Voyager’s larger size, compared to the Explorer, allows for a more persistent datalink, increased power, and versatile payload integration options. The Voyager’s smaller size, compared to the Surveyor, allows it to operate in shallower areas closer to shore.

Voyager carries an impressive payload for survey operations, including multibeam sonar equipment capable of seafloor mapping of depths to 900 feet (300 m), and an ISR sensor suite that includes a smart camera array, digital radar, and sub-surface passive acoustics. 

Primarily powered by wind and solar, the Voyager also features an electric propulsion alternative, which is useful for low-wind and near-shore operations.

“With our Voyager platform, Saildrone helps to eliminate maritime gaps above and below the ocean surface, reducing risk to mission and risk to force,”  said Richard Jenkins, Saildrone founder and CEO. “We want to be a force-multiplier for our partners and allies when it comes to ISR capabilities.”

Voyager sea trial

To meet the increasing demand for the new Voyager platform, Saildrone has elected to outsource the production of the wing, hull, and keel to composite specialists: Janicki Industries will manufacture the wing and keel in Washington, and Seemann Composites will manufacture the hull in Mississippi. Saildrone will continue to produce, install, and service internal components in Alameda. 

“One of the truly exceptional aspects of working at a company like Saildrone is the fact that hardware and software engineering, manufacturing, mission operations, and G&A are all housed under one roof—in a former airplane hangar on a site known for aviation and naval innovation,” said Saildrone COO, Mark Cuyler. “But with the rapidly increasing demand for ocean data collection across the fleet, it is necessary to outsource some of our production. Saildrone is proud to work with great US-based companies like Janicki and Seemann, whose expertise in the marine composites industry will help us to more rapidly meet the demanding challenges of the world’s oceans.”

Saildrone has been conducting sea trials of the Voyager in the San Francisco Bay and offshore of California since late 2022, and the first operational maritime security and ocean mapping missions will begin in spring 2023. According to Saildrone, the company is currently producing new Voyagers at a rate of one per week. 

The data collection capabilities of Saildrone’s autonomous vehicles have been proven in numerous operational missions, covering almost 1 million nautical miles from the Arctic to the Antarctic. The company looks forward to its continued and close partnership with the US Government and its allies in boosting maritime security around the globe.

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Posted by Caroline Rees Caroline co-founded Unmanned Systems Technology and has been at the forefront of the business ever since. With a Masters Degree in marketing Caroline has her finger on the pulse of all things unmanned and is committed to showcasing the very latest in unmanned technical innovation. Connect & Contact