Harbor drone developed at UH Manoa

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It is the latest development in drone technology, but as one administrator notes, "You won't see guns mounted on this thing. What we have is sensors".

Dr. Margo Edwards is the Director of the CIMES Center. The Center for Island, Maritime, and Extreme Environment Security is partnering with a non-profit firm, Battelle Memorial Institute, to produce and distribute the drone.

The UPSV, or Unmanned Port Security Vessel, is a six foot long, twin hulled boat that weighs 160 pounds and runs on battery power. Mounted on board are all those sensors. Infrared, SONAR, chemical detection and cameras all work simultaneously to support the mission of the UPSV, data collection.

"Its purpose is to go out and map ports and harbors in response to events" said its developer, Dr. Brian Bingham.

The events he speaks of are those that would create environments that would be unsafe for humans. For example, a harbor filled with debris after a tsunami, or a port filled with a toxic chemical after a spill.

Edwards says the UPSV could have assisted after the molasses spill in Honolulu harbor.

"It has a little pole with a suite of sensors that will hang down into the water, below the water. So we could have used this technology to map that molasses spill".

Students at UH Manoa, researchers and contractors all helped build the UPSV. It is in its second generation of prototyping. After a third generation is built, Battelle will assist in bringing it to market.

"It's larger than what the university could do but it's not big enough to get big, corporate attention. It falls in that range that---it's just a sweet spot for us" said Battelle employee Jac Fought.

One surefire customer will be the US Coast Guard. They actually petitioned UH to build the device based on their needs.

"For the Coast Guard it's about cost and deployability, getting it to an event quickly and easily. Those were the key drivers to the design you see today" said Dr. Bingham.

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