Explosive growth in USV development in China

701 Institute of CSIC:”Sea One” LOA: 6.8m / Speed: 30 knots

Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) development has been making great strides in China in recent years and now we are seeing rapid growth in the unmanned surface vessel sector.

A number of unmanned systems have emerged and unmanned surface vessels (USV) are now seeing a surge in research and development for use in both military and civilian environments.

USVs can be deployed in waters where it’s unacceptable to send a manned vessel, including high threat environments or areas contaminated by nuclear, biological, or chemical agents. They are reliable, fast, highly manoeuvrable, allowing them to conduct a wide range of missions, including coast patrols, without endangering personnel.

There are more than 60 types of unmanned surface vessel available globally: the United States, Israel, and Sweden currently lead the market. Use of USVs, both in China and internationally, is moving from military to civilian use. Prospects for the civilian unmanned surface vessel market look very positive indeed.

The Chinese market for USVs is currently moving from second generation to the third, and the entire industry is still in a relative stage of infancy. With the advancement of China's 'marine power’, there will be a greater focus on the use of autonomous vehicles in the marine industry and the scale of the entire autonomous market is likely to see exponential growth.

A USV is a surface-based robot that travels independently, perceives intelligently, avoids obstacles around it and carries out various types of surface tasks. It can be equipped with different sensors, instruments and equipment to carry out industry and field specific tasks.

Existing USVs are relatively small in size with nearly 60% of them at 7 meters in length or less. On the one hand, small platforms are cheaper and easier to test, on the other hand, they are mission-critical, because small-scale USVs are generally used for observation and information gathering as well as physical environment measurements. Maritime safety missions usually require a USV ranging from 7 to 11 meters in length, and these larger USVs are used for tasks that require heavy loads, such as patrol assistance.

Usage of USVs include: water environment monitoring, waterway and reef shoal measurement, patrol enforcement forensics, search and rescue and anti-terrorism – interception and fire support.