Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs), or seagoing drones, have come a step closer to reality following successful tests of a recovery system.
Global navies want to use Unmanned Surface Vehicles. They will keep boat crews out of high risk environments and extend the outreach of surface vessels. There are already forty prototype USVs on the market globally, ranging from 1-10 metric tons in weight. But most research and development in this area is focused on the USV itself.
Until now there were no proven systems for launch and, more importantly, recovery of the USV from a mother ship. That limits the use of USVs, which can only become a regular part of the ship’s armament once the issue of safe retrieval is solved.
That changed in April when Vestdavit concluded successful sea trials with its SOLUS system. Working with DCNS in Lorient, France, Vestdavit was able to demonstrate SOLUS safely and easily recovering a USV from a moving ship in a seaway.
SOLUS was developed jointly between Vestdavit and Norwegian hook manufacturer H Henriksen. The solution uses a dual hook system, one for launching and one for retrieval. Dyneema rope and soft links replace the normal wire lifting falls and the boat is picked up by a specially-designed davit, adapted to the synthetic ropes.
For the tests outside Lorient a manned rib was used but with no crew intervention. Manning on the mother ship was done by untrained personnel to demonstrate the ease of use. The SOLUS system proved to be simple to hook up and safe to operate for the recovery crew on the vessel.
SOLUS is a robust and simple system which builds on H Henriksen’s hook expertise and Vestdavit’s expertise in boat handling. It is SOLAS-compliant and requires very few crew to operate. The hook and painter are combined into the system.
Vestdavit is now presenting SOLUS to navies around the world. With proven tests at sea it is a major step forward for the deployment of USVs for warships.