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February 16, 2007 In an interesting development, the same technology that is used in noise-cancelling headphones (roughly speaking) is to be applied to heavy marine engines to reduce their noise and vibrations. The vibrations from marine diesels spreads through the entire hull, but researchers have now found a way of blocking the sound immediately below the engine with the help of computer-controlled counter-vibrations from an active damper between the engine and the bearing by which the engine is attached to the hull. This active bearing is made primarily from piezo-ceramics, materials that can change their shape when electrically stimulated. If they are stimulated very quickly, they generate high-frequency vibrations – which are exactly what marine engines need. Using sophisticated sensors, the scientists measure the engine’s vibrations and trigger the piezo-ceramics such that they precisely counteract this motion. Read More
February 16, 2007 Earthrace is a bid to break the 75 day world record for circumnavigating the globe in a powerboat, and using only renewable fuels. Circumnavigating the globe represents the pinnacle of powerboat challenges, and at 24,000 nautical miles, is also the world's longest race. The current record of 75 days was set by British boat Cable & Wireless in 1998 and the most curious aspect is that outright record is still safely held by sail power (The World’s Fastest Catamaran), at 50 days 16 hours. The 1,200 horsepower Earthrace aims to smash the powered record by completing the voyage in less than 65 days, but is unlikely to get near Orange II’s wind-powered record. Wave piercing is a key element in the boat’s design, as it allows the 78ft wave piercing tri-maran to run continuously at high speed in any conditions. Earthrace will begin its record attempt on March 6 and is still seeking US$500,000 in additional sponsorship for its unique attempt. Read More
February 14, 2007 As a leap forward in the capability of watercraft, the SeaPhantom is landmark. The company’s catchcry “Helicopter speed, powerboat price” explains how effective it is, but the devil is in the detail and this toy is a combination of several technologies, each of them adding a significant dimension to the capabilities. At low speeds, it’s just like a boat, then as it transitions to medium speeds, it lifts out of the water on proprietary shock dampened 'foils' which are outboard on each side and are the marine equivalent of a desert race car suspension – long travel and capable of withstanding massive impacts. This is a very serious suspension system with non-corrosive fiberglass leaf springs and billet-aluminum airbags tested to 60,000 pounds for dampening the wave impacts. At these speeds SeaPhantom is like a trike with two wheels (the foils) at the front and one driving wheel – in this case a 625hp Ilmor V-10 running through a propulsion system adapted from an offshore race boat. Once there’s clear water in front of it, tweak the speed and the lifting-body airfoil design picks it off the water in ground effect, radically reducing hydrodynamic drag. Without all that resistance of the water to contend with, the SeaPhantom can rocket along at 120 mph using just a fraction of the V-10’s 625 horsepower with radically-improved fuel consumption. Read More
February 5, 2007 Greg Kolodziejzyk set a world record for human powered vehicles last July when he pedalled his streamlined recumbent bike 650 miles in 24 hours. Now Greg is embarking on an even bigger adventure, first planning an attempt at the 24 hour human powered boat distance record and then following it up with an attempt at the Human powered Transatlantic record. Unlike most previous HPV Transatlantic attempts which have involved rowing (275 attempts, 273 by rowing, 176 successful, six deaths), Greg’s boat will be propeller-driven, though he’ll be after the same record which currently stands at Frenchman Emmanuel Coindre’s 42 days, 17 hours from Spain to Barbados. The 24 hour record stands at 168 km and Greg’s calculations from his 24 hour land record put him in with a very good chance of smashing it - he knows he can average between 100 to 110 watts output for 24 hours, which gives him a speed of 9 km/h in water in his new boat which should result in 216 km for 24 hours. Video here and excellent images with this story. Read More
January 30, 2007 Last November we wrote about a extreme experimental boat that had been seen in U.S. waters and at that time, little was known about the amazing spider-like water craft. Now we can lift the lid on the machine, based on an original concept by Ugo Conti of Marine Advanced Research. The appropriately named Proteus (Proteus was an early sea-god capable of changing shape and assuming many forms) is the first of a new class of watercraft based on a patented technology that delivers a radically different seagoing experience. Wave Adaptive Modular Vessels (WAM-V) are ultralight flexible catamarans modularly designed to allow for a variety of applications and to fit the requirements of specific users, missions or projects. Unlike conventional boats that force the water to conform to the their hulls, the WAM-V adjusts to the surface of the sea, with the superstructure flexibly connected to specially designed pontoons by several components that actually move in relation to one another. Springs, shock absorbers and ball joint articulate the vessel and mitigate stresses to structure, payload and crew. Two engine pods, containing the propulsion and ancillary systems, are fastened to the hulls with special hinges that keep the propellers in the water at all times. The modularity of a WAM-V allows the payload to be switched with a different one in less than an hour. In most versions, the payload is a self-contained craft that can lower to the surface, detach and operate under its own power. The switchable payload module effectively changes the WAM-V into an entirely different craft in less than an hour. Some examples of possible payload modules include a luxury cabin for two, cruising accommodations for six passengers, twelve passenger transport, a scuba diving platform or an emergency response unit. Read More
January 25, 2007 The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence has awarded a contract for the design, construction and evaluation trials on a technology demonstrator vessel, which will be a contender for the next generation of fast landing craft. If selected, the high speed Partial Air Cushion Supported CATamaran vessel (PACSCAT) will be used to support future amphibious operations. PACSCAT technology is also being developed for high speed freight transport on inland waterways within Europe. The freight vessel is expected to do around 20kt (37km/h), with a payload capacity of 2000 tons, so the development of the high speed landing craft will be interesting to watch. The increased speed and payload balance of the PACSCAT will make 'over-the-horizon' amphibious operations feasible for task force commanders. They will be able to stay offshore at a safe distance and return at high speed to recover troops when required. Read More
January 19, 2007 The next running of the world’s most demanding offshore adventure, the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race (the former Whitbread Round the World Race), features 11 ocean legs, eight inshore races and shorter stopovers in a route which takes in the hitherto uncharted territories of Asia, India and the Middle East. The race will start in the port of Alicante, Spain in the autumn of 2008. There are also changes to crew numbers and one of the most intriguing moves was the introduction of a new position of on-board media specialist – every boat in the race will carry full-time media liaison to improve the quality of interviews and imagery and to facilitate quicker and better editing of the vast quantity of footage. On-board audio and video of the last race helped raise the profile of the event but with the immediacy of new media at the race organiser’s disposal, the new moves are expected to further broaden the appeal of the race. The new rules are also designed to facilitate an all-female crew in the event. Read More
December 21, 2006 The U.S. Navy has approved funding for the construction of a second General Dynamics trimaran version of Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) featuring an innovative, high-speed trimaran hull. The 127-meter surface combatant LCS is intended to operate in coastal areas of the globe, and will be fast, highly manoeuvrable and geared to supporting mine detection/elimination, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare, particularly against small surface craft. The LCS's large flight deck sits higher above the water than any U.S. Navy surface combatant and will support near-simultaneous operation of two SH-60 helicopters or multiple unmanned vehicles. The ultra-stable trimaran hull allows for flight operations in high sea conditions. In addition, the deck is suitable for landing the much-larger H-53 helicopters, should that become a future requirement. The Littoral Combat Ship will have one of the largest usable payload volumes per ton of ship displacement of any U.S. Navy surface combatant afloat today, providing the flexibility to carry out one mission while a separate mission module is in reserve. Read More
December 13, 2006 The rapid progress of technology is a two-edged sword, offering an opportunity for all humans to live a life of dignity, with food and water, and free from disease. At the same time it offers a small, disgruntled community the force-multiplication to strike telling blows against much bigger foes as we found on September 11, 2001. There are daily examples in Iraq of technology’s ability to aid a deadly strike against a larger opponent with IEDs and human-driven suicide truck bombs taking a massive toll. Perhaps the best example of a few men being able to strike at a larger enemy was the attack on USS COLE, in Yemen in October 2000, which amply demonstrated the destructive potential of a surface attack and the vulnerability of ships in port. To ensure the safety of military ships, Foster-Miller is developing an advanced Boat Trap system for the United States Department of Defense Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, working closely with the US Coast Guard. Designed to bolster US harbour security and protect coastal military bases abroad, Boat Trap is a non lethal, ballistic net that is deployed from a helicopter into the path of a threatening speedboat travelling at high speed. It is designed to entangle the propeller, causing the craft to immediately stop. The Boat Trap system has undergone extensive testing, and not once has it failed to stop a target. Read More
December 5, 2006 Innespace Productions, co-founded by New Zealander, Rob Innes and Californian Dan Piazza, has just unveiled its latest submersible watercraft, the SeaBreacher. The two seat Dolphin (this along with the Bionic Dolphin constitute a new type of recreational watercraft modelled on a dolphin) was recently selected as one of Time magazine's 2006 Best Inventions. The second model Innespace has designed and built, the new SeaBreacher is fifty percent larger than the original vessel in order to accommodate two full size occupants and larger engine packages. The current prototype is powered by a 130kW Atkins Marine rotary engine. The supercharged race version will produce over 180kW and an international race series is planned. The 12mm thick canopy on the SeaBreacher is taken from the new F-22 Raptor jet-fighter. Read More