You've heard of UAVs, unmanned remote controlled military aircraft; but what about USVs? Standing for Unmanned Surface Vehicle, a USV is quite simply an unmanned boat, like Zyvex Marine's Piranha concept. We've looked at USVs before, and the Piranha specifically in early 2010; but what was then a prototype under development is now a fully-fledged production craft, having shipped its first unit last November. "Our production facility is closer to rocket science than traditional boat building," says Zyvex Marine VP Byron Nutley of his boat - the only one in the world, it's claimed, that is made out of nanomaterials. But does the Piranha have the technological bite to match the hyperbole, and what does this mean for naval warfare?
ZPM’s nanotube-reinforced carbon fiber prepreg is normally associated with high performance composite power boats, but the use of such ultra-lightweight materials in an unmanned surface vessel (USV) makes sense. Built entirely of Arovex™, the newly announced 54-foot Piranha USV weighs only 8,000 lb, yet can carry a 15,000 lb payload 2,500 miles, making it suitable for missions as diverse as anti-piracy, search and rescue, submarine hunting, and harbor patrol with a range of armament options that includes stabilized machine guns, Mark 54 torpedoes, and over-the-horizon missiles.