The Ecuadorian Navy has been trying to develop its own autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to combat piracy for the past two years. Research director Eduardo Cadena says researchers have been working off the hypothesis that pirates have been attaching their own underwater vehicles to Ecuadorian ships, but by the time a manned vessel can investigate, the pirates' vehicle has detached and navigated away.
"We want to use another autonomous underwater vehicle to detect the pirates," Cadena says. With the help of an unmanned system, Cadena estimates the Navy would be able to respond to pirate threats in less than an hour.
At an educational session Monday, Cadena also presented the Ecuadorian Navy's work on its own unmanned surface vessel. Using exclusively commercial off-the-shelf materials, researchers developed and tested a unmanned surface vehicle (USV) that can autonomously navigate shallow waters and perform surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
"Under ideal conditions, the USV can detect installations occulted by high-density vegetation," Cadena said in the presentation. "Basically, you can't see the robot, but the robot can see you."
Cadena says the Navy will use the lessons learned from testing the USV as they develop an AUV without technical assistance from other countries. "But we have problems with maintenance since it's very expensive in our economy," he says.