Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Autonomous Unmanned Surface Vessels

We have un-manned airplanes in the air (commonly called drones), so why should we be surprised about the idea of un-manned ships in the sea? Autonomous Unmanned Surface Vessels, or AUSVs, appear to be making significant progress, as you can see by browsing around on the Harbor Wing website. Of course, you can tell just by the opening trumpet music of the demo movie that this is primarily a Department of Defense project, but the company does make some reasonable suggestions about scientific and ocean-safety missions. The basic concept of 'sail-by-wire' seems pretty sensible, so I won't be surprised if this effort sees deployment.

Meanwhile, the reason I got to this site was from Kimball Livingston's wonderful Blue Planet Times, which today brings us coverage of the latest negotiations for the 2013 America's Cup defense. The latest proposal appears to be to have two types of boats: 45-footers, and 72-footers:

The plan is for declared teams (“at least eight challengers” according to BOR CEO Russell Coutts) to race against each other in the 45-footers through March of 2012, while they are building their 72-foot America’s Cup contenders. Subsequent racing moves to the 72-footers, with seven regattas in 2012.

These are amazing boats! As Russell Coutts says, "it won't look like the senior tour any more". Livingston reports that the 45-footers can be shipped around the world in standard yacht-transport containers, while the 72-footers, which are immense, can apparently be (somewhat) dis-assembled and flown from place to place in giant cargo planes.

The sailing tactices of the races may change, as well, Livingston reports:

Strong consideration will be given to a short first leg, to bring the boats to the first mark close together. “That would mean that the boats would round nose-to-tail,” Coutts said, “so the race could be won downwind, which would be interesting from a competitive point of view, also from a spectator point of view. And if we end up in a high-wind area, a reaching leg would be worth considering because you’d see the boats at peak speed.

"A high-wind area," eh? Perhaps, you mean, San Francisco Bay?!!

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