After the capsizing of the Portland district US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) survey vessel in April 2018, the USAEC is turning towards USV in a bid to ensure the safety of its workers.

The reason for the move towards USVs is to provide a platform that can perform in areas too dangerous for manned ships, such as near dam facilities or in boat restricted zones. Notably, the April incident prompted the rescue of one of the ships crew members. 

In a solicitation request for an unmanned survey vehicle the USACE noted they are seeking a ‘high performance catamaran USV with speed and manoeuvrability in difficult environments’. 

Whilst the USAEC has stated to Shephard it is currently only interested in the one USV, it has not ruled out procuring more platforms should they find success with this vessel.

The vessel, not to exceed 3m (10ft) in length or 68kg (150lbs) in weight, needs to be a portable system that can be launched from a shore, shipboard or riverine environs.

Emphasis has been placed on situational awareness and command and control (C2). Controllable from a laptop or smartphone, the vessel’s C2 capabilities would also be boosted by radio and 4GLTE communications. 

In order to ensure situational awareness the vessel will be fitted with a fixed camera to provide real time data along with a control display to reveal a mission map, onboard-camera view and user sonar interface windows.

Another area of focus concerns upgradability, where the USACE emphasises the need for replaceable and upgradable components such as core sonar/sensors parts or communication options.

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