Saildrone and Austal Limited are pleased to announce an exclusive Teaming Agreement to jointly identify opportunities to collaborate on the manufacture of the 65-foot (20-meter) Saildrone Surveyor, in Australia, for deployments in the Indo-Pacific region. The Surveyor, Saildrone’s largest class of uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), is designed for deep ocean mapping and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) applications above and below the surface.
In August 2022, Saildrone announced a strategic partnership with Austal USA to build Saildrone Surveyor USVs at Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile, AL. With its industry-leading expertise in aluminum shipbuilding, Austal is uniquely equipped to fabricate the Surveyor’s aluminum hulls, ensuring rapid expansion of the fleet.
This new Teaming Agreement in Australia builds upon the successful partnership in the United States and further strengthens the relationship between the two companies in the development and construction of uncrewed surface vehicle technology.
“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,” said Austal Limited CEO Paddy Gregg.
Saildrone is the world leader in long-endurance ocean data collection using uncrewed vehicles, with nearly 25,000 days at sea and nearly 1,000,000 miles sailed. While Saildrone is proud to be a US-owned and operated company based in Alameda, CA, it will establish Saildrone Australia in 2023 to cater to the commercial and government sector in Australia and the broader Indo-Pacific Region.
“It is fantastic to be bringing technology, innovation, and investment back to Australia, and specifically to my home city of Perth,” said Saildrone Founder and CEO Richard Jenkins, who grew up in Western Australia.
Ocean mapping is typically done by survey ships, which are expensive, difficult to book, and powered by fossil fuels. Operating without crew, the Saildrone Surveyor delivers high-quality information faster and at a fraction of the cost and carbon footprint of traditional survey ships. Equipped with the Kongsberg EM 304 MkII, the Surveyor provides International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)-compliant multibeam bathymetry down to 36,000 feet (11,000 m).
Saildrone Surveyor SD 1200 sails in rough, windy conditions across the North Pacific on its way back to California in October 2022, as captured by the vehicle’s onboard cameras. The USV mapped more than 45,000 square kilometers (17,375 square miles) of previously unexplored ocean floor during a months-long survey around Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and off the coast of California.
Most recently, the first Saildrone Surveyor, which was built by Saildrone in Alameda, CA, discovered a “Bundt-cake” shaped seamount approximately 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) tall within the US EEZ, only 180 nautical miles due west of Cape Mendocino, CA. The discovery was made during the Aleutians Uncrewed Ocean Exploration expedition, a multi-agency public-private partnership funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to address ocean exploration gaps in remote areas using USVs.
Saildrone’s ISR solution uses advanced machine learning (ML). With its proprietary ML model, trained on a unique data suite of millions of maritime images captured and labeled during missions over the past seven years, Saildrone vehicles can automatically recognize and classify objects. Saildrone’s masthead 360° optical camera system, combined with the ML model, delivers real-time, visual detection of targets at sea, including “dark” vessels that may not be transmitting their position. These detection events are then fused with other data sources—radar, AIS, and acoustics—to deliver a fully informed picture of the surrounding maritime domain.
Austal USA began building the first two Generation 2 Saildrone Surveyors this month in Mobile, AL; manufacturing will begin in Australia later this year.
Austal Limited, “Austal Australia and Saildrone Enter Teaming Agreement,” press release, austal.com, April 13, 2023