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Industry News
Nano-fibered unmanned boat completes sea trials

Zyvex Technologies' Piranha unmanned boat, with carbon fiber nanotubes for added strength at reduced weight, has completed six months of testing off the shores of Washington and Oregon in the U.S.

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Posted on: 4/5/2011
Source: CompositesWorld

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Zyvex Technologies (Columbus, Ohio, USA) reports that its 54-ft/16.5m boat named Piranha completed sea trials early April 4 near Puget Sound in the Pacific Ocean, demonstrating record fuel efficiency. After six months of extensive testing, the Piranha completed its final sea trial – an approximate 600 nautical mile (nm) rough-weather sea test off the shores of Washington and Oregon.

Zyvex says a conventional aluminum or fiberglass boat would have consumed 50 gal/189L or more per hour at cruise speed, while test results prove that Piranha consumed only 12 gal/45L of fuel per hour while cruising at 25 knots. The Piranha demonstrates Zyvex Technologies' ability to produce products with nano-enhanced materials that are 40 percent stronger than metals, such as aluminum, and result in significant weight reduction and increased fuel efficiency.

Made with carbon fiber infused with carbon nanotubes (CNTs), the Piranha is the first boat built with CNTs. Weighing only 8,400 lb/3,810 kg, compared to boats of similar size that typically weigh 40,000 lb/18,144 kg, the Piranha is 75 percent lighter, making it easier to transport and cost-effective to operate.

Piranha can travel 2,800 nm without refueling and has operated in open-ocean conditions with waves exceeding 12 ft/3.7m. Russell Belden, vice president of Zyvex Technologies, notes that other similar sized vessels built from heavier materials can only travel 450 nm without refueling and have limited rough-weather performance.

"The lightweight Piranha delivers significantly better fuel efficiency and capability than any vessel this size. The most expensive part of operating a boat can be the fuel costs. Since the Piranha gets 2.5 miles per gallon going 25 knots, its operators would only spend one fourth as much on operating costs," said Belden.

The Piranha will begin demonstrations on the U.S. East Coast with an appearance at the Sea Air Space exposition. With initial sea trials complete, defense contractors are evaluating the Piranha for use as an unmanned platform with a variety of mission applications, including anti-piracy, harbor patrol, and oceanographic surveying. While in Norfolk, Va., USA, Zyvex Technologies will also continue further integration of unmanned systems on the Piranha.

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