Work Boat has a short report from DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate about experiments with an unmanned system.
First, its good to see the Department supporting R&D efforts on behalf of the Coast Guard, because the Coast Guard R&D budget is miniscule.
Second, this unmanned surface system is a bit unique, in that it is submersible, unlike the SeaDrones that the Coast Guard had previously experimented with. It is not primarily expected to operate underwater, because it is powered by wind and solar, but it does have the capability to submerge.
There are already several autonomous vessels in the field utilized for both commercial and military applications. However, the Tritons are a unique technology. At 14 feet long, they are the size of a small rowboat—making them easy to deploy from any port or USCG vessel. They are environmentally friendly and rely solely on wind and solar power at sea. The Tritons’ solar arrays are positioned atop their hulls, along with retractable 8-foot wind sails—both designed to charge the Tritons’ batteries whenever they are on the surface of the ocean. The Tritons also perform surface and underwater surveillance activities; navigate while submerged; dive to about 100 feet; and accommodate state-of-the-art sensor packages that utilize electro-optical and infrared cameras, sonar, and other specialized sensors. All of these characteristics and abilities make them useful for long-term USCG maritime protection and law enforcement operations at sea.
The ability to submerge opens up some interesting options. This might be used to avoid collision. It might be used to sample the water column. It might be used to put acoustic sensors below the surface layer. Or it might be used to take a closer look at mine-like objects below the surface.
Thanks to Paul for bring this to my attention.