Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs; also known as Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) or (in some cases) Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs),Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs), or colloquially drone ships) are boats or ships that operate on the surface of the water without a crew. USVs operate with various levels of autonomy, from simple remote control, to autonomous COLREGs compliant navigation.
The regulatory environment for USV operations is changing rapidly as the technology develops and is more frequently deployed on commercial projects. The Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship UK Industry Conduct Principles and Code of Practice 2020 (V4) has been prepared by the UK Maritime Autonomous Systems Regulatory Working Group (MASRWG) and published by Maritime UK through the Society of Maritime Industries. Organisations that contributed to the development of the MASS Code of Practice include The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), Atlas Elektronik UK Ltd, AutoNaut, Fugro, the UK Chamber of Shipping, UKHO, Trinity House, Nautical Institute, National Oceanography Centre, Dynautics Limited, SEA-KIT International, Sagar Defence Engineering and many more.
In July 2021, SEA-KIT International became the first USV designer and builder to receive Unmanned Marine Systems (UMS) certification from Lloyd’s Register for its 12m X-class USV design. USV Maxlimer is SEA-KIT’s proof of concept X-class vessel, based at their headquarters in Tollesbury, Essex.
By end of 2017, Sagar Defence Engineering became the first company in India to built and supply USV to Government organization.
As early as the end of World War II, remote-controlled USVs were used[by whom?] in minesweeping applications.[page needed] Since then, advances in USV control systems and navigation technologies have resulted in USVs that an operator can control remotely (from land or from a nearby vessel): USVs that operate with partially autonomous control, and USVs (ASVs) that operate fully autonomously. Modern applications and research areas for USVs and ASVs include commercial shipping, environmental and climate monitoring, seafloor mapping, passenger ferries, robotic research, surveillance, inspection of bridges and other infrastructure, military, and naval operations.