Singapore-based Zycraft, a company specialising in the design and manufacture of unmanned surface vessels (USVs) for commercial and government applications, has announced that it had completed the longest deployment of its Vigilant-class Independent USV (IUSV) prototype to date.
According to Zycraft, the 17 m-long IUSV was deployed from its Singapore home port to the South China Sea for a continuous period of 22 days, covering 1,900 n miles, operating at an average speed of 5 kt with intermittent high-speed transits. The company also revealed that the vehicle had started its deployment with slightly over 6,000 litres of diesel and returned to port with 2,800 litres of fuel remaining.
Zycraft also stated that the latest endurance test had validated the IUSV's fuel efficiency and the robustness of the vehicle's electronic and mechanical systems, and enabled the company to gain valuable experience in USV operations.
Command and control of the IUSV was effected via satellite communications (SATCOM) from Singapore at Zycraft's command centre, with two operators monitoring the vehicle on a 24/7 rotational roster, although Jane's was briefed that the company also deployed a support boat to shadow it to deal with any contingencies.
Speaking to Jane's on 18 May, Zycraft president James Soon said that the test, which was conducted from 23 April to 15 May, was the first time that the vehicle - which can be optionally manned - was operated without a human crew on board for such an extended period.
"This endurance test is a major capability demonstration of the IUSV, showing that the vehicle can be effectively deployed for surface surveillance tasks for extended periods at sea," Soon said, noting that valuable data was gained from observing how the vehicle's navigational and sensor systems performed in the actual operational environment.
"Because the IUSV had been out there observing marine traffic and events on the surface for such a long period, we were able to discern clear shipping patterns and even witnessed several near miss incidents between commercial ships," he revealed, although he declined to go into the specifics.
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