• The fifth Bluebottle uncrewed surface vessel (USV) for the Navy was handed over at Ocius Technologies’ Randwick headquarters on 9 June. (Julian Kerr)
    The fifth Bluebottle uncrewed surface vessel (USV) for the Navy was handed over at Ocius Technologies’ Randwick headquarters on 9 June. (Julian Kerr)

The RAN has taken on-time and on-budget delivery of its fifth and final solar, wind and wave-powered Bluebottle uncrewed surface vessel (USV) from Sydney-based Ocius Technologies.

Acquired under a $4.9 million five-vessel contract signed in November 2022, the 22ft (6.7m) USV was built by Van Munster Boats in Morisset, NSW, and handed over at Ocius Technologies’ Randwick headquarters at a 9 June function attended by Commodore Darron Kavanagh, Director General Warfare Innovation - RAN Headquarters; and Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite. 

“Ocius Technologies and other innovative local businesses are the engine room of the Australian defence industry,” Thistlethwaite said. 

“They provide leading edge capabilities to assist in contending with an increasingly complex strategic environment.”

All five USVs are now based on the east coast on a government-owned, contractor-operated basis and are being used for focused development of uncrewed underwater systems technology, and as test beds for surface and shallow-water surveillance, CDRE Kavanagh told ADM

Other areas of interest are understood to include gateway capabilities – communicating data to future unmanned underwater vessels (UUVs) such as the Ghost Shark, currently under development for the RAN by Anduril Australia. 

Ocius’ Chief Executive Robert Dane says the company is planning future delivery of one Bluebottle per month to meet industry requirements and potential overseas interest. 

One leased Bluebottle recently completed a mission in the western Pacific mapping the active volcano on Japan’s Nishinoshima Island, during which the vessel successfully contended with 30-knot winds and three-knot currents.

Lessons learned from the mission mean one of two Bluebottles now under construction will incorporate a diesel generator with 400 litres of fuel stored in the keel, to provide sufficient power for dual beam hydrography, Dane said.

Discussions contingent on funding meanwhile continued with the Australian Border Force (ABF) on a renewed role for the capability, which is already successfully utilised by the service. 

Four Bluebottles under contract to the ABF and equipped with 360-degree day/night infrared cameras, radar and satellite communications in mid-2022 successfully completed nearly 23,000 nautical miles (43,000 km) of unescorted maritime surveillance patrols off Western Australia. 

Similar tasking in late 2021 covered 6,400 nm (11,850 km) in the Timor Sea off Darwin. 

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