USV completes Atlantic crossing on solar power

Photo: Project Mahi

A new type of unmanned surface vessel (USV) powered by electric propulsion has completed what its developers believe to be the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by an uncrewed vessel using only solar power.

The autonomous robotic vessel Mahi Two left the coast of Spain in September 2021 and made landfall in Martinique, in the French Lesser Antilles, six months later after more than 4,300 nautical miles at sea.

The four-metre-long has a composite hull and is driven by two Torqeedo electric pod drives that the project team modified to rotate instead of incorporating a conventional rudder.

The pod drive is powered by two lithium-ion batteries charged by Solbian solar panels. The system powers the drive, plus the steering actuator, electronics, and bilge pumps.

The steering, communication, hardware integration, navigation and energy management on board are all managed by proprietary software.

The craft communicates using an onboard satellite modem, GPS, and AIS.

Mahi Two was developed by Project Mahi, an unmanned systems company based in Belgium.

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