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SolarSailor and Australian shipbuilder to produce Unmanned Ocean Vessels

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ssuov-microAustralian renewable-energy marine technology company SolarSailor and Carrington, New South Wales, headquartered shipbuilder Forgacs Engineering Pty Ltd. are to market, prototype, and build wind and solar powered Unmanned Ocean Vessels.

A license agreement between the two companies combines SolarSailor’s patented Unmanned Ocean Vessel (UOV) technology with Forgacs’ track record in naval and commercial shipbuilding.

The vessel is a “game-changer” for the $2 billion worldwide UOV market, says Dr. Robert Dane, CEO of Solar Sailor and the inventor of its technology.


“Other types of UOVs currently in use deploy at sea for hours or days only, and use strictly finite amounts of on-board stored fossil-fuel or solar generated electric power for propulsion,” he says. “The SolarSailor UOV offers unlimited time-at-sea with the primary propulsion being wind (with the SolarSail) for the vessel’s movement, and renewable-electricity generated at sea from propeller regeneration. Photovoltaic cells on the SolarSail power all electronics such as steering, lighting, movement sensors and satellite communications.”

Dr. Dane adds that “abundant reserve electrical power is stored in lithium Ion battery packs low down in the hull, which also act as ballast to balance the vessel.”

According to Dr. Dane, the SolarSailor UOV opens up new capabilities and markets in highly-sensitive security or weather-risk areas, in military operations and coastal border protectionoceanography and meteorology, and marine safety at sea.”

The vessel requires no fossil fuels to operate and gives off zero-emissions. Photovoltaic solar cells cover the stowable aerofoil type wingsail and much of the deck. The propeller is driven by an electric motor (without engine noise) and is used in low-wind-conditions for maneuvering, collision avoidance, and stealth missions.

Tony Lobb, Director of Forgacs, says: “Navies and coastguards worldwide can enjoy limitless at-sea operation and vessel-monitoring from on-shore, without risk to crew safety, and with large, variable payload capacities at low capital cost, and low running costs without the need for on-board crew or renewing fossil fuels, and this proven Solar Sailor technology is already powering six vessels in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Australia.”

One potential Australian application for the UOV is in border protection

Australia’s vast coastline makes it vulnerable to unauthorized marine landings whether military or civil.  If it were possible to erect a physical floating barrier across Australia’s northern coast, it would stretch 1,500 nautical miles.

A line of Unmanned Ocean Vehicles can make a virtual barrier in high traffic areas to detect even the smallest vessel and relay information to authorities ashore instantly.  One vehicle every five nautical miles for a total of 300 vehicles can form a continuous line of sensors to detect, localize and record any ship or boat traffic attempting to cross the barrier.   The capital expenditure for the entire exercise is below $120 million.

September 9, 2011

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