Scanning for Ideas: Unmanned Trimaran Smart Enough to Trim Its own Sails

Nov. 22, 2008
HWT X-1, an unmanned sailingvessel prototype designed and built by Harbor Wing Technologies, Seattle

Edited by Stephen J. Mraz

The HWT X-1, an unmanned sailingvessel prototype designed and built by Harbor Wing Technologies, Seattle (, could someday patrol ocean waters to protect marine areas, monitor the ocean and atmosphere, and augment U.S. military forces. The 30-ft prototype is currently being tested in the waters of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a 140,000-sqmile area in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The brains of the boat is the SeaKeeper 1000 control system from SeaKeeper, a French company specializing in marine technology. It lets operators control the boat by VHF radio, satellite, or line-of-sight UHF communication. It also controls the sails and small electrically driven propellers, reducing power to the propellers when the wing-sail takes over most of the load. When speeds exceed 4 knots, the motors switch off and propellers fold away. Operators need only set patrol parameters or a destination and the SeaKeeper handles navigation. It can maintain a course to within 1 m in closed or harbored waters and to within 2 m in the open ocean.

A portable workstation-based command console uses a graphicuser interface to show operators navigational and situational information.

The production craft will measure 50 ft long, have a 40-ft beam, and a 60-ft mast. Draft is 10 ft with the hydrofoils lowered. Its airfoil will have 700 ft.2 of surface area. It will carry up to 1,500 lb of payload in 600 ft3 of storage space. Top speed is at least 25 knots and range is 500 miles. It will be able to spend three months at sea..

To see the trimaran in action visit EngineeringTV at 5r8jq8

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