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A 21-foot robotic boat to patrol harbors - Soundings Online

A 21-foot robotic boat to patrol harbors

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With a top speed of 55 mph, the skipperless Interceptor 2007 is designed for surveillance and pursuit

With a top speed of 55 mph, the skipperless Interceptor 2007 is designed for surveillance and pursuit

It might not be long before small fleets of unmanned high-performance vessels are patrolling harbors and other waterways, protecting sensitive marine installations like oil rigs and refineries.

Florida-based Marine Robotic Vehicles International has introduced the Interceptor 2007, a 21-foot fourth-

generation remote-controlled vessel that the company says is the “most advanced” design for maritime security and public service purposes.

“Most of the [unmanned surface vessels] have gone for a RIB hull, which is, in our opinion, not appropriate for a great deal of applications,” says Robert J. Murphy, MRVI founder and managing director, in an e-mail to Soundings. “The Interceptor 2007’s hull form, optional equipment, high-speed and responsiveness make it attractive to a wide range of military, paramilitary, government and commercial users.”

With an LOA of 21 feet, 3 inches, and a beam of 8 feet, the Interceptor 2007 is powered by a multifuel 266-hp Steyr diesel with a HamiltonJet waterjet propulsion system. The vessel’s top speed is 55 mph.

“As its name suggests, apart from surveillance it is designed for interception through chasing and shadowing other boats,” says Keith Henderson, MRVI vice president of international marketing. “The stepped hull gives excellent handling, and because there is no crew on board [the vessel] can be turned at high speed, do crash stops and accelerate to full power quickly.”

When an on-board computer is programmed with a predetermined course and prescribed tasks, the Interceptor 2007 can operate autonomously, says Murphy, who is 60. On-board sensors modify the vessel’s course according to external circumstances — to avoid collisions, for example. The vessel also can be controlled remotely through a radio link to a command station either on shore or aboard a mother ship. Another unmanned surface vessel designer, SeaRobotics of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., provided the Interceptor 2007’s command, control, navigation and data-acquisition systems.

“The product uniquely fills a niche in a rapidly growing market segment,” says SeaRobotics president Don Darling, 52.

MRVI designers began developing unmanned marine vessels in 1985, according to information on the company’s Web site (www.mrvint.com ). The first-generation model was called OWL (for “over water/land”). In 2001 the company began collaborating with Boston Whaler on the second-generation model, called the Sentinel. “We developed the 15-foot Sentinel from a modified [Boston Whaler] hull and Mercury jetdrive,” Murphy says.

In the years since, MRVI has increased the size of the hull and the vessel’s payload, and improved seakeeping qualities, according to Murphy. “Particularly important is the increase in payload, which lends itself to the integration of more complex and more capable sensors, such as radar, sonar, high-resolution video and powerful communications suites,” he says.

Murphy expects MRVI to unveil a 36-foot USV later this year. “We believe the [Interceptor 2007] is the best product available on the market now and [we] will continue to improve it,” he says.