HD Hyundai Displays Prototype USV Combining AI and Autonomous Navigation

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South Korean shipbuilder HD Hyundai unveiled its first prototype for its entry into the emerging uncrewed surface vessel (USV) market. It comes as the shipbuilder looks to develop new high-value markets leveraging its autonomous navigation technologies and is also targeting expanded roles in naval shipbuilding.

Called Tenebris the company showed the prototype at a tradeshow in Washington D.C. along with its new partner Palantir, a U.S.-based leader in applications of AI technology. HD Hyundai and Palantir announced a joint development agreement just a month ago for the USV market. At the time, they said the goal was to have their first vessel, designed for reconnaissance operations, on the market by 2026.

They point to the anticipated strong growth in the USV segment. Hyundai cited data that said it was nearly a $1 billion market in 2022 and within a decade could reach $2.7 billion. While the market is growing quickly, they contend that previously developed USVs are difficult to operate in rough environments such as high waves.

They said the intent is to combine autonomous navigation software from HD Hyundai’s subsidiary Avicus with Palantir’s Mission Autonomy system which deploys AI. Planatir they report is considered to be an AI leader with the U.S. Department of Defense, Navy, and Army already customers.

Tenebris is designed for reconnaissance missions where the enemy is nearby. The prototype design is for a vessel 17 meters (approximately 56 feet) in length. It would have a light displacement of 14 tons and combine autonomous navigation and AI capabilities. It uses a high-performance hull.

The concept is to replace manned vessels to perform surveillance and reconnaissance in dangerous areas. It could be used for mine searching and removal as well as other combat tasks. 

HD Hyundai continues to work on the design to maximize the seaworthiness and range of the vessel. The goal is to ensure smooth and uninterrupted operations regardless of the sea conditions. They are also looking to enhance the vessel’s speed, payload, and stealth capacity.

The business plan calls for expanding the applicability of the USV. A second offering would be a combat USV.

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