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The US Naval Forces Central Command began operational testing of a sailboat-style drone – a saildrone. This is a wind and solar-powered unmanned surface vehicle (USV) capable of up to 12-month data collection missions on the open ocean. 

The Saildrone Explorer being tested in the Gulf of Aqaba off Jordan could provide the Navy with a relatively inexpensive way to expand its sightline, according to the Navy’s announcement.

Built by Saildrone company, the vessel is 23 feet long and 16 feet tall and relies on wind power to move. It is equipped with a sensor package powered by the sun.

According to the company, such vehicles are built for long missions at sea and are equipped with cameras, automated identification receivers and radar or infrared cameras for nocturnal capabilities.

Software onboard recognizes targets of interest and can report those targets back to end-users.

The Navy hopes the vessel’s machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities could provide the fleet with an affordable, zero-carbon tool for seeing over the horizon.

The U.S. Coast Guard began testing Saildrone vessels in the fall of 2020 off Hawaii, according to defensenews.com.