The Royal New Zealand Navy will soon receive a 6.8-metre renewable-powered vessel drone for short-term trial.

The Royal New Zealand Navy is on the brink of a groundbreaking addition to its fleet—an unmanned surface vessel (USV) known as “Bluebottle,” which will herald a new era in maritime technology.

Set to be transported aboard the HMNZS Aotearoa from Sydney to Auckland for imminent trials, this innovative vessel is a game-changer in naval sustainability. Its operations utilize renewable energy sources.

Innovative Renewable Energy Propulsion

Developed by Sydney-based Ocius Technology, the Bluebottle stands out for its capability to run entirely on renewable energy, harnessing the power of solar, wind, and waves.

This eco-friendly vessel sets a benchmark in sustainable maritime technology with a rigid sail providing wind propulsion and photo-electric cells integrated into the sail to drive its motor.

According to its current trial results, the Bluebottle exhibits remarkable adaptability even in challenging weather conditions where sunlight and wind might be scarce.

Featuring a distinctive flipper and rudder mechanism, this surface vessel drone can efficiently steer and propel itself, ensuring uninterrupted operations.

With a maximum speed of five knots and the exceptional capability to endure sea states up to 7 (equating to wave heights ranging from six to nine meters), the Bluebottle displays resilience in adverse marine environments.

Moreover, it is equipped with an array of sensors encompassing radar, electro-optic, and infrared cameras, which ensures safe maneuvering and facilitates the identification of other vessels.

The USV is constantly monitored and operated from a control room at the Devonport Naval Base, where communication channels utilizing mobile phone signals near the shore and high- and low-bandwidth satellites in farther offshore regions ensure continuous connectivity and operational efficiency.

Versatile Mission Capabilities

Primed for an array of missions, the Bluebottle presents a multifaceted approach to naval operations.

Its functionalities extend to crucial tasks like fishery protection, border safeguarding, and the gathering of meteorological data.

Commodore Garin Golding, Navy Maritime Component Commander, highlighted the significance of this advancement, emphasizing the vessel’s pivotal role in patrolling New Zealand’s expansive Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“Our EEZ spans more than four million square kilometres, making it the fifth largest in the world. Coupled with our responsibility for a search and rescue area encompassing 30 million square kilometres, the need for comprehensive ocean coverage is paramount,” said Commodore Golding in a press statement.

“Evidence from our international counterparts strongly indicates the value of unmanned drone aircraft and vessels in fulfilling surveillance and search missions effectively.”

Utilizing Cutting-Edge Communication

Operating from a control room at the Devonport Naval Base in Auckland, the Bluebottle will establish communication links with base personnel through mobile phone signals.

Furthermore, it will leverage high- and low-bandwidth satellites to extend its coverage, ensuring seamless operational connectivity.

Royal NZ Navy
‘Bluebottle’ USV (Image source: NZ Government)

Unparalleled Mobility and Deployment

One of the remarkable features of this USV is its mobility.

Easily transportable via trailer to various locations across New Zealand, it can be launched and recovered through boat ramps during sea missions.

This flexibility enhances the Navy’s capability to deploy the Bluebottle swiftly and effectively, augmenting its response to diverse maritime challenges.

Pioneering Sustainability in Naval Operations

The impending trials and integration of the Bluebottle into the Royal New Zealand Navy underscore the country’s commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technology for maritime security and sustainability.

As the world witnesses the fusion of innovation and environmental consciousness in defense technology, the arrival of this renewable-powered USV marks a pivotal moment for New Zealand’s naval capabilities.

Looking Ahead: A Greener, More Efficient Maritime Future

With its renewable energy reliance, versatile functionality, and adaptability for diverse missions, the Bluebottle not only represents a milestone in naval technology but also signifies a significant step towards a greener and more efficient maritime future.

As the trials and subsequent operational deployment of the Bluebottle unfold, anticipation mounts within the military and defense tech communities.

The prospects for its seamless integration into the Navy’s operations to enhance efficiency and bolster maritime security continue to fuel excitement and optimism.

The Royal New Zealand Navy’s acquisition of the Bluebottle stands as a testament to the continuous pursuit of cutting-edge advancements in defense technology, setting a precedent for sustainable and high-performance naval operations worldwide.