South Australian company Praxis Aeronautics has been contracted to provide solar components to the Australian Navy’s next fleet of solar powered unmanned vessels.
The company has been contracted to build the solar components of Ocius’ newest Bluebottle unmanned warrior surveillance vessel using their proprietary process of integrating solar cells directly into composite structures.
Ocius currently have two classes of vessel ready for at-sea testing – Bruce, which is a smaller prototype, and Beth, which is larger and will be fitted with Praxis Aeronautics’ structural solar cell integration technology.
The solar-powered vessel, which is capable of remaining operational at sea for months at a time, is being heralded as the future of Australian Naval warfare due to its ability to gather intelligence on submarine and mine warfare.
Praxis Aeronautics Founder and Director of Innovation and Manufacturing, Cameron Donaldson said the process of incorporating solar capability into marine vessels hasn’t evolved much since the 1990’s.
“Currently, other companies are attaching pre-made solar panels to their structures, which means they can’t fit as many solar cells on the vessel because they are restricted by the standard shape and size of the panels,” said Donaldson.
“We build custom structures with the solar cells integrated into the design, so we can maximise the solar array and make the structure as light or as strong as needed, depending on the requirements of the customer.
“The original foredeck that Ocius were using had 16 cells fitted, whereas our custom array provided 36 cells, doubling the amount of generated power.”
On top of the added power capability, Mr Donaldson says their integration technology allows the vessels to be maintained and repaired the same as a regular boat without interference from exterior solar panels.
Praxis Aeronautics’ Managing Director Katie Donaldson said their innovative process sets a new benchmark for solar capability within the defence industry.
“Our previous work with Defence shows they are always looking for more power, which Praxis can achieve without the added weight or fragility issues seen in other solar solutions.”
Testing of the new Bluebottle warrior vessel will begin in September 2020.