• The two Bluebottle USVs at sea. Credit: Ocius Technologies
    The two Bluebottle USVs at sea. Credit: Ocius Technologies

Sydney-based SME Ocius Technologies' Bluebottle unmanned surface vessels (USVs) have completed sea trial requirements three months ahead of schedule under a Defence Innovation Hub contract.

In a statement, CEO Rob Dane said that the final test examined the USVs' ability to detect and avoid other vessels.

"An important final test was demonstrating our “visual acuity target recognition and collision avoidance” software," Dane said. "In these scenarios, we put a Bluebottle (BB) on a collision course with the Ocius support boat, a difficult to see, low to the water, small, rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB).

"Using automatic visual recognition, the RHIB was identified as ‘not water/not sky’ and then positively identified as a ‘speedboat’. The collision avoidance controller software then plotted a course around the RHIB. The Bluebottle proceeded around it and continued on its way.

"This all happened autonomously such that if the BB did not have communications at the time, it would avoid the collision and when comms came back it would send photos and GPS to the rest of the team and to the ‘human on the loop’."

The Bluebottles also demonstrated their ability to handle rougher waters.

"We had the opportunity to test our sailing and rudder flipper in a Beaufort 5 - 6 southerly winds and 1 knot northerly currents for 24 hours," Dane said. "We were able to navigate freely in both ‘sail only’ mode at one point going up to 5 knots boat speed and in ‘rudder flipper only’ mode at up to 2 knots boat speed - both modes using zero propeller power."

The company will spend the next few months conducting post-trial analysis, experimenting on a unique 'rudder flipper', and "taking some well-earned holidays."

Last week the company's USVs demonstrated their ability to work as an autonomous team.

In late 2018, Ocius won a $1.7 million contract from Defence to determine the viability of an intelligent command and control network of persistent unmanned surface vessels.

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