Wave of the future: The Wave Glider ASV
The biggest advantage of any autonomous surface vehicle is its ability to allow you get more done with less, and the Wave Glider is no exception
We’ve all seen the footage of drone strikes. Over the past 10 years, the nightly news has been littered with the grainy proof that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are valuable and effective tools in the war on terror.
But how can UAVs be used in a maritime environment? Can the same technology that allow U.S. forces to track the Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan help secure our nation’s vast shoreline?
That is the very question a Congressional Subcommittee asked at a recent hearing titled “How to Improve the Efficiency, Safety and Security of Maritime Transportation: Better Use and Integration of Maritime Domain Awareness Data.”
Enter the Wave Glider
Much of the committee testimony centered on the current and future potential use of traditional UAVs, which resemble small gliders. Since 2007 the Coast Guard has been working with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to develop a program utilizing traditional land-based drones, while the newest National Security Class Cutter was designed with onboard UAV capabilities.
Vass presented a different approach designed specifically for maritime applications. Enter the Wave Glider Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV) from Liquid Robotics.
The Wave Glider is a low-profile, unmanned surface vehicle that is capable of long-range, extended deployments with little or no need for human interaction. This is made possible by the fact that the unit is propelled by wave-generated energy, coupled with solar panel arrays to power onboard computing, communications and sensor payloads.
History of AMVs
In modern times, several companies have floated the idea of unmanned watercraft, some even built specifically for maritime law enforcement. Early models were nothing more than traditional patrol vessels refitted to operate by remote control. Buying the vessel and then funding the refit made this cost-prohibitive, though, and the idea of sending a 2,000-pound high-speed vessel outfitted as a weapon platform into a busy harbor presented more liability than most people were willing to accept.
Furthermore, the only real advantage these early models offered was mobility. When outfitted with cameras, one unit could be used to track a suspect vessel throughout a target area, as opposed to having to deploy dozens of cameras along the suspected route.
However, even this was manpower-intensive due to the need to have an operator controlling the unmanned vessel 24/7.
Fire and Forget
A single operator can then manage multiple units (one pilot for approximately 15 vehicles) from a command center or even a laptop, with the ability to receive email or text alerts when an ASV encounters a problem or detects some predetermined activity.
The Wave Glider has also proven its ability to continue to operate 24/7/365 regardless of weather conditions. Tests have included continuous operation from California to Australia (awarded the Guinness World Record for longest journey traveled by an unmanned autonomous surface vehicle), and units have remained operational through several hurricanes and typhoons while collecting data for customers, including NOAA.
Example uses include:
• Security picket line
When I talked to Liquid Robotics Global Maritime Security Director Glenn Ignazio, he suggested other potential missions, including harbor security, enforcement of security zones, detection and surveillance of smugglers, and early warning/detection near high-value targets such as port terminals or airports.
A Floating Utility Truck
Cameras, communication equipment, acoustic modems, radiological detection equipment — regardless of your needs, if it can fit in the payload area or be towed on a Wave Glider’s wing rack, you can use it. Even better, the unit can be programmed to send collected data to the controller in real time without the need to recover the device.
Better Than Human?
However, unmanned units can be a valuable resource used to support and augment traditional units. These remote units can be deployed to high-hazard areas or during long-term surveillance or search and rescue missions, thus saving human crews from potential harm and allowing for better deployment of limited resources.
With the ability to be deployed for up to one year, and with no need for fuel, vehicles such as the Wave Glider can reduce costs compared to either surface or aerial assets — saving dollars, reducing risk, and increasing operational efficiency.
Just have UAVs have found a place in traditional military and law enforcement operations, sooner or later everyone in maritime enforcement should get on board with ASVs.
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