Partnership offers first combined sea-air drone platform

marine aerial drone

California companies Marine Advanced Robotics and Planck Aerosystems have announced their strategic alliance to produce a platform composed of a marine uncrewed surface vessel (USV) with an onboard aerial drone. The combined asset is designed to allow users to conduct advanced operations in the sea and sky in the same, integrated mission.

Partners call their new platform the first marine-aerial drone combo ever

The companies say the dual spatial unit is the first ever to equip a marine drone with an uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV). The innovation, they add, will allow users to considerably expanded operational capacity in activities like offshore infrastructure inspection, patrolling protected marine preserves, and an array of marine and airborne security and defense capacities.

Richmond-based Marine Advanced Robotics says its uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) can travel long distances without any outside support, and remains sturdy, reliable, and fully operational even in rough sea conditions. The craft can be outfitted with data-collecting sensors both above and below water levels. It is part of the company’s line of Wave Adaptive Modular Vessels (WAM-V) that range from 8 to 100 feet in length. The craft are frequently deployed for marine surveys, remote observation, maritime domain awareness, oceanography, maritime security, and disaster response.

The aerial drone component is supplied by San Diego-based Plank Aerosystems, which develops navigation and autonomy solutions for tethered and free-flight operation, enabling use from moving platforms and in GPS-denied environments. The company’s Autonomous Control Engine navigation technology has been integrated into over 30 different UAV craft of various sizes and configurations. 

Paired together, the partners say, the USV-UAS combo provides powerful capacities for missions requiring both marine and air drone activity – and without having to separate those two domains into individual phases.

“The combination of Planck’s unmanned aircraft system with Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel technology will enable greater situational awareness for multiple applications,” says Marine Advanced Robotics CEO Mark Gundersen. “Thanks to Planck’s Autonomous Control Engine  on the UAS and the inherent stability of the WAM-V, we’re able to provide a USV/UAS solution that can operate in open ocean conditions. Together we’re providing force multiplier solutions for aerial and surface missions for our defense and commercial customers.”

The platform is currently in trial use by customers who expressed an early interest in the offer, and should be available to all potential clients sometime toward the end of 2021.

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