-- Replacing manned systems with USV is not a question of if but when
When protecting and securing strategic facilities at sea, USV can fill all parts of the integral security solution - surveillance and detection, recognition and alerting, and finally neutralizing the threat. USV can also be launched from shore, patrol vessels or from the facility itself, which is another important advantage over a standard vessel.
"USV significantly reduce the costs of patrol hours and, when used in fleets, can cover more sea area," said Frost & Sullivan Consultant
Tactical advantages of USV when integrated with top technologies on board will help revolutionize sea warfare. USV can operate with navy ships such as corvettes, frigates, and destroyers as an additional target detection platform, to identify enemy ships and launch missiles. Significantly, USV will provide the capability to combat terrorists who use small, low-cost vehicles (asymmetric threats) as a weapons platform. USV can close the range to suspicious targets for better examination and even help neutralize them without risking human life.
"While asymmetric warfare may be the main reason for developing USV, some navies are actually seeing the symmetrical advantage in robot vessels," noted
However, there are some challenges holding down the unmanned revolution. One of them is a decline in defense budgets due the economic recession. For security and HLS applications, the lack of a central procurement authority for government applications and the absence of legislation and regulations for safe sailing routes in open and closed seas is a major obstacle. Nevertheless, the industry anticipates that a combination of technical evolution and regulatory frameworks will enable vast defense and non-defense applications for USV.
There are also some technical and technological challenges USV should overcome. The key one is the communications problem. A drop in communication with USV can cause complete disorientation of the vessels, posing a real danger of them crashing into other vessels. The inability to respond in real time when needed will be a huge disadvantage as well. The small size of USV also impacts the capability of its energy sources. Batteries need to supply power to radar, GPS, and other navigating systems as well as computers, electro optics, weapons, stabilizers and more. Additionally, OEMs still need to close gaps in independent navigation capabilities, autonomous decision-making, and sensors stabilization.
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