By 2030, the use of USVs with a high degree of automation will be commonplace in various industries. The period between 2020 and 2025 will see a fast pace of technical and regulatory development, allowing the full operational use of USVs in a variety of roles before 2025, both at sea and on inland waters. In the years after 2025, USVs will find more roles and increasingly replace crewed vessels in these roles, as well as supplementing crewed vessels performing tasks which are too dangerous for ships with crew on board.
By 2030, humans will still be in the loop for supervision of these vessels, but in many cases this will be restricted to monitoring their safe operation from shore control centres, only directly intervening in case of contingencies.
In the coming years, the use of USVs will provide several important benefits to their users.
In inshore and offshore survey and inspection tasks, small USVs will progressively replace much larger crewed vessels, whose dimensions are governed by the need to safely carry and sustain the vessel crew. Without the need to safeguard the wellbeing of people on board, USVs can be employed in much harsher weather conditions, increasing the number of workable days and allowing safer use in difficult areas like surf zones and near infrastructure like windmills and platforms. For many of these operations, working with USVs will cheaper, safer and more sustainable compared to crewed vessels.
While survey and inspection applications lead the way, USVs will also increasingly find use in surveillance, search and rescue and support roles in emergency response. Here USVs will perform tasks which are too dangerous for crewed vessels to perform.
USVs will also find application in small scale city logistics, where various niches allow profitable use of autonomous USVs in garbage collection, moving building materials, cleaning canals.