Unmanned Surface Vehicles: The View from Oceanology International

Unmanned Surface Vehicles: The View from Oceanology International

Justin Manley — February 15, 2017

This morning I enjoyed the opportunity to moderate the Unmanned Surface Vehicles panel at Oceanology International North America. We had a great discussion about developments in the underlying technology, as well as the latest applications for USVs.

For me, three key takeaways stood out:

  • The concept of “systems of systems” using USVs to provide a link between the seabed and the sky is not a crazy idea but a shared vision. Liquid Robotics kicked off the session with a presentation on the Digital Ocean, and the final briefing from Kongsberg presented their vision for ocean operations from a desk ashore. It is great to see the community bringing forward similar ideas. To have a first slide and last slide on a panel reinforce each other so well was gratifying, and perhaps a little lucky.
  • The “reality” of USVs is now almost taken for granted. None of the speakers needed to invest time in discussing how their vehicles work at the base level. The basics are behind us and the focus is moving toward advanced autonomy and complex operations.
  • The overall accomplishments of USVs are astonishing. While I did not take exact notes, I can say comfortably the collectively the USV fleet has seen nearly 1000 units deployed, tens of thousands of days of operation and several millions of nautical miles sailed.

For more on one vision of USVs in the Digital Ocean you can find Graham Hine’s presentation here:



Our ocean is already benefitting from the power of unmanned surface vehicles. I look forward to what developments will come next.

Justin Manley is an ocean technologist and the President of Just Innovation Inc.