Unmanned Ocean Drones: Australia To Use Drones To Patrol Waters For Illegal Vessels

Australia will be using unmanned ocean drones soon to patrol its waters between Botany Bay and Ulladulla along the coast of New South Wales, Australia.

These autonomous drones will not only be used to detect and investigate unauthorized vessels, but also capture weather data.

OCIUS, maker of the autonomous drones, received an AUD $5.5 million (~$3.8 million) contract last month from the Department of Defence, to further develop its autonomous unmanned surface vessels. 

The use of drones in border protection is the first priority as a part of the contract, and the Defence Innovation Hub will design a fleet of six drones. 

These drones are equipped with sensors and radar equipment to autonomously detect illegal vessels, alert the authorities, and relay the information to the operating center. Once the message is delivered, an operator will confront the unauthorized boat to better understand the situation. If there is no problem with the intercepted vehicle, the drone returns, but if there is a problem, a manned border patrol vessel is sent to communicate with those on board the boat.

Robert Dane, Chief Executive of OCIUS, explains:

“Those jobs put people, our men and women in uniform in harm’s way. A robot that is persistent and unmanned and does not need fuel or get bored, is ideally suited to do that dull and dangerous work.”*

While the drones are patrolling, they will also be used to collect data concerning major weather systems, by sailing into cyclones to determine their ferocity, or feel the shift in the ocean if there is an earthquake, which will gauge and forecast the risk of tsunami.

Ruth Patterson, a PhD candidate at Charles Darwin University, explains:

“If there’s a cyclone, we can send the drone in to measure the air pressure, which is something we couldn’t send people in to do. It will show us more about and what it will look like  when it makes landfall.”*

The Bluebottle USV is the drone used for such a challenging mission. This drone can be piloted remotely, and it is powered by the wind, waves, and sun, which enables it to be out at sea for months, unless it needs to return for maintenance. “The drone travels at 5 knots with a 300kg (~660 pounds) modular payload that has access to up to 50 watts.”*


This fleet of unmanned ocean drones are being built and they are expected to be ready for their missions early next year and this fleet of drones is another example of the continual advancement in drone technology.

The steady advancement of drone technology makes us wonder what is coming next.

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