Australian-made USV approved for EEZ autonomous operations

The Steber International-built unmanned surveillance vessel (USV) “Bluebottle” has been approved by AMSA to operate autonomously in Australia’s exclusive economic zone.

The development follows on from an “on-water” display at Lake Burley Griffin in late 2019 with a national and international audience, including military and government regulators.

“The export potential in South East Asia for maritime security and surveillance, at an affordable price, is enormous,” commented Alan Steber. “This all Australian designed and made innovative USV is unique and will grow in demand including in related fields of fisheries patrol, drug and people smuggling detection, hydrographic surveys and much more.”

In the latest sea trial, Bluebottle Bob sailed from Botany Bay to Ulladulla, averaging 3.4 knots over the 96 nautical mile distance. Bob used 360-degree cameras, radar, automatic identification systems (AIS) and collision avoidance software to autonomously navigate safely during the voyage.

AMSA has given approval to operate Bob (and brother Bruce) as domestic commercial vessels, which means they are permitted to operate autonomously out to the extent of Australia’s exclusive economic zone.

Following the successful recent trial, Bob is heading to Darwin to begin logistics and sea trials. The delivery of the Bluebottle Beth in September will be followed by four more of the larger model in 2021, each armed with Thales thin line sonar arrays, radar, cameras and other sensors.


Published since 1978, Ausmarine is the foremost magazine servicing the Australian and New Zealand commercial, military and government marine sectors.