US Navy operates Saildrone Explorer USV in the Persian Gulf

According to information published by the U.S. MoD on January 28, 2022, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) began operating the Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) in the Persian Gulf.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Saildrone Explorer USV (Picture source: U.S Navy)

Task Force 59, NAVCENT’s dedicated staff for new unmanned systems and artificial intelligence discovery, initiated Saildrone operational testing off the coast of Bahrain one month after launching the Saildron in the Gulf of Aqaba.

The Saildrone launched in the Gulf of Aqaba on Dec. 12, successfully operated at sea continuously for more than 30 days, demonstrating persistence in a dynamic maritime environment.

The Saildrone Explorer is a 23-foot-long, 16-foot-tall USV reliant on wind power for propulsion. The vessel houses a package of sensors powered through solar energy for building a shared picture of the surrounding seas.

Last September, NAVCENT established Task Force 59 in Bahrain where it is headquartered. The task force has since commenced at-sea evaluations of new Mantas T-12 and Devil Ray T-38 USVs off the coast of Bahrain before International Maritime Exercise (IMX) 2022 in February.

IMX is slated to include unmanned systems from partner nations, which will make it the largest unmanned exercise in the world.

The Saildrone is powered by a 5 m (15 ft) wing, which is effectively sail-like on a sailboat, but of a design more similar to the wing on an airplane. Wind passing over the wing produces thrust, and a small tab on the end of the tail attached to the wing controls the angle of attack.

The rudder controls the direction of the hull, and the keel keeps the Saildrone upright. They are equipped with GPS and an onboard computer, enabling the vehicles to navigate following prescribed waypoints, while staying in a safety corridor, taking winds and currents into consideration autonomously.