• The first new next-generation Bluebottle arrives in September.
    The first new next-generation Bluebottle arrives in September. Ocius

Sydney-based Ocius has secured formal approval for its unmanned surface vessels (USVs) to sail autonomously within Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Bob the Bluebottle left Botany Bay heads at 11 am Wednesday 1 July, arriving at Ulladulla heads at 3pm Thursday 2 July, a distance of 96 nautical miles, averaging 3.4 knots,” CEO Robert Dane said. “Bob used 360-degree cameras, radar, Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and collision avoidance software to autonomously navigate safely during the voyage, with engineers at our R&D facility at UNSW Campus Randwick and at Charles Darwin University (CDU) Darwin taking it in turns being the 'human on the loop' supervisors.

“Previously, we have escorted USVs out to a 50sq nautical mile AMSA approved area, 20 nautical miles off Ulladulla, where we could operate autonomously.

“However, we are now approved by AMSA to operate Bluebottles as Domestic Commercial Vessels (DCV) under the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012. This means they are permitted to operate autonomously out to the extent of Australia’s EEZ.

“We thank AMSA for working with us to achieve this excellent result,” Dane said.

Bob is now destined for logistics and sea trial tests in Darwin, with next-generation Bluebottle Beth scheduled for completion in September. The vessel will use solar arrays embedded in its composites, a design developed by innovative SA-based SME Praxis Aeronautics.

“This will be followed by four more Bluebottles in 2021, each armed with Thales thin line sonar arrays, radar, cameras and other sensors,” Dane said.

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