Austal investigates building uncrewed surface vessels

Perth shipbuilder Austal has linked with Saildrone Inc. to jointly identify opportunities to collaborate on the manufacture of 20 metre Saildrone Surveyor uncrewed surface vehicles (USV, pictured) in Australia, for deployments in the Indo-Pacific region.

According to Austal, US-based Saildrone is the world leader in long-endurance USVs, having amassed nearly one million miles and 25,000 days at sea with its 120-strong fleet.

Saildrone entered a strategic partnership with Austal USA in August 2022 to construct the USVs at Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile, Alabama. Now the company plans to establish Saildrone Australia.

Austal Limited Chief Executive Officer Paddy Gregg said the Teaming Agreement was a logical move and an opportunity for Austal Australia and Saildrone to collaborate.

Gregg said: “This agreement allows us to bring Saildrone Surveyor manufacturing to Australia, building in parallel with Austal USA.

“This increases our ability to rapidly scale to meet the demands we anticipate in the Indo-Pacific region.

“This industry-leading technology complements our work in the Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial and strengthens our capabilities overall in the autonomous naval vessel market.”

In February Austal delivered the catamaran Expeditionary Fast Transport USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13) to the United States Navy – the largest surface ship in the US fleet with autonomous capability.

Saildrone Founder and Chief Executive Officer Richard Jenkins is an Australian National, having grown up in the southwest of Western Australia.

Jenkins moved to America in 2009 to start the business.

Jenkins said: “It is fantastic to be bringing technology, innovation, and investment back to Australia, and specifically to my home city of Perth.

“I am very excited to have Austal Australia as a partner and to explore the possibilities to put our
vehicles to work for Australia and our partners in the wider Indo-pacific Region.”

The Saildrone Surveyor USV is 20 metres long and designed for deep ocean mapping and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) applications, above and below the surface.

The Surveyor is autonomous and uncrewed, offering extreme endurance, reliability, and cost-effective operations.

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Picture: Austal/Saildrone Surveyor

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