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CRC project aims to deliver composite “rudder flipper” for Ocius

Manufacturing News

A new R&D project led by marine company Ocius Technology and supported by the Australian Composites Manufacturing CRC will optimise the use of wave energy, according to the ACM CRC.

The project links Ocius with the University of New South Wales and will focus on wave energy for propulsion, harnessing energy for underwater flippers for Ocius’s Bluebottle-class uncrewed uncrewed surface vessels (USVs), said the CRC (formerly known as the SoMAC CRC) in a statement on Wednesday.

Bluebottles are developed by Ocius for continuous maritime surveillance and other tasks, with applications also including in oil and gas, environmental monitoring, and scientific research. The craft are powered by solar, wind and wave energy.

The project aims to design and manufacture a next-generation composite flipper for the Bluebottle for optimal propulsion, especially in difficult sea conditions. It will combine automated manufacturing procedures, integrating multidisciplinary techniques including scientific computing, optimisation, artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing.

Robert Dane, CEO of Ocius, said, “The ‘rudder flipper’ came out of biomimicry and was developed by trial and error into a third method of propulsion on a Bluebottle Uncrewed Surface Vessel besides sun and wind. 

“It also acts as a ‘sea anchor’ in bad weather pointing the bow into high seas which can go on for days. So the flipper needs to have properties of strength, resilience and memory and this 3-year project with ACM CRC will put scientific rigor around the design and manufacture and turn it into a real ‘superpower’.”

The project’s Chief Investigator, Associate Professor Fangbao Tian, said that the UNSW Canberra Flow Science team has been developing advanced computational fluid dynamics tools over the last decade. 

“As an important element of digital twins in engineering, advanced computational fluid dynamics will be used with artificial intelligence, optimisation and biomimetic knowledge of aquatic animals to design flipper-based propulsors of superior performance in terms of thrust and reliability,” Tian added.

In late-2022 the Royal Australian Navy contracted to acquire five Bluebottle USVs from Ocius, following 15 months of trials run by the Defence Innovation Hub where they completed nearly 23,000 nautical miles at sea. The fifth vessel was delivered in June last year.

Picture: supplied

Further reading

Ocius Technology’s Bluebottle headed for NZ

First Ocius naval vessels received by Navy

Navy to acquire Ocius Bluebottle drones

BlueBottle Uncrewed Surface Vessel fleet now complete

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