The paper presents the main characteristics of an innovative platform which has been conceived and designed to extend the operational capabilities of current unmanned surface vehicles in terms of platform stability in waves and of powering requirement at a relatively high speed. The main idea which rules the project is the realization of a small autonomous surface unit (about 6 m in length) capable of undertaking several tasks in the marine environment even with moderate rough sea conditions. The designed vessel has the ability to locate, recover, and launch other members of the autonomous fleet (like AUVs or other underwater devices) and at the same time could carry out a surveillance service of the surrounding areas. To manage these tasks, the vehicle is designed to provide a fairly good autonomy which is needed to face intermediate-range missions (100 nautical miles). The choice of a small waterplane area twin hull (SWATH) form has been motivated by its excellent properties of seakeeping qualities, combined with a non-conventional low resistance underwater hull shape, currently under patenting process, which is able to reduce to a minimum the resistance of the vessel especially at higher speeds. To obtain the most efficient profile of the underwater bodies, a systematic optimization with an automatic procedure based on a parametric definition of the geometry, a state-of-the-art computational fluid dynamics (CFD) flow solver, and a differential evolution global minimization algorithm have been created and used. As expected, all the final CFD computations on the best design have demonstrated the superior efficiency of the developed unconventional SWATH technology with respect to different alternatives of current hull typologies. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
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