Founded in 2000 as Solar Sailor Holdings Limited, OCIUS is a first mover in the marine industry with its concept to combine energy available at sea to use for marine propulsion.
The Company was founded after Dr Robert Dane, founder and CEO, watched a solar boat race and conceived and patented the “SolarSail”, a simple device that harnesses both sun and wind power in a seaworthy way. With support from friends and family Dr Dane successfully modified a conventional Hobie Cat catamaran to build a successful solar and wind powered prototype, the Marjorie K which using “solarsails” won the 1997 Advanced Technology Boat Race in Australia, beating the next solar boat by five laps of a six kilometre course.
To test the commercial application of the technology, the Company built a 100 pax tourist leisure ferry for Sydney Harbour. This innovative vessel operated commercially on charter to Captain Cook Cruises for over 10 years, providing valuable experience to Ocius on the commercial and technical applications of its technology as well as gaining wide public exposure. Following the sale of Captain Cook Cruises in 2011, the Solar Sailor vessel has operated commercially on Lake Macquarie as a charter and dolphin watch vessel.
Following interest from the USA in 2005 for ‘self-sustaining platforms at sea’, Ocius began research into the development of unmanned solar/wind/wave and ballasted powered ocean vessels or autonomous unmanned surface vessels.
Seven years of research followed with the building of a 6 metre /20 foot engineering development model (EDM) proving a meaningful speed of advance in all conditions, adequate power, payload and persistence for a sustainable platform able to go to sea for months. With the University of Wollongong, Ocius is developing propulsion systems, collision avoidance, “sensory informatics” or data processing and autonomy software to be fitted into the first autonomous drone to be deployed off the Australian coast in September quarter 2015.
The management team has demonstrated its innovation, capability, project management and delivery in the commercial maritime industry from the first winning prototype to winning prestigious contracts for the technology – totally over $14M since inception.
The CEO, the team and the Company have been recognized with multiple international and Australian awards. Ocius is focusing this experience on the quickly growing autonomous unmanned surface vessel market.
Previous Grants from Australian Government with successful execution
As a first mover in the industry, Ocius has been able to build on its award-winning portfolio of innovative technology. The Company was awarded a $1 million Australian Government grant to help build its first commercial vessel in 2000. This vessel was completed on time and won the Australian Design Award of the Year in 2001.
Notable Commercial Projects
- “SolarSailor” (Australia): Our first commercial boat, SolarSailor, was formerly operated by Captain Cook Cruises for ten years from 2000- 2010. It has recently been operating on Lake Macquarie doing tourism and dolphin watching cruises and has recently been sold to a private interest.
- Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust Project (Hong Kong): In July 2008, when oil price reached $140/ barrel, the Hong Kong Jockey Club placed an order for the construction of three commuter ferries to operate a service 14 hours a day, seven days a week to transport players, staff and supplies from the mainland at Sai Kung to the island of Kau Sai Chau where the HKJC has three 18 hole golf courses.The ferries do two routes of five and seven mile round trips with slow sectors at each end – in a 20-minute cycle. Ocius modelled substantial savings in fuel consumption compared to the previous ‘standard’ diesel ferry service, as well as reductions in emissions. The boats in operation have exceeded this since in independent tests since delivery.
- Shanghai World Expo (China): After demonstration of the Sydney ferry to Suntech, a Wuxi-based solar panel company, in 2009 Ocius was awarded a contract to design, build and install a 12 -metre high SolarSail with software integration, on a 250 pax VIP river cruise boat vessel, ‘Suntech Guoshung’ for the World Expo in Shanghai.
Bluebottle – Unmanned Surface Vessel
In 2008 Ocius started researching unmanned surface vessels (USVs) for science and surveillance.
Robert Dane said “Oceans cover 70% of the earth’s surface, control climate and weather and are critical in the defence of many nations including Australia.”
“We are building unmanned ocean drones so that industrial, defence and scientific organisations conducting ocean monitoring, mapping and surveillance can obtain continuous coverage, save money, reduce error rates and remove people from harms way.”
Called “Bluebottles”, after the Australian marine animal that lives at sea and uses its body to ‘sail’, Ocius unmanned surface vessels (USVs) can harvest the energy available at sea – solar, wind and wave energy. The result is a ‘disruptive’, autonomous data gathering & communications platform.
Ocius is taking advantage of global trends in technology development and pressure for governments and offshore operators to make large efficiency gains – “to do more with less”. Our USVs meet that need by offering multiple economic and operational advantages over conventional manned craft:
- Greatly reduced CAPEX per square mile of ocean coverage
- Greatly reduced OPEX needing no fuel, food or man hours
- Greatly reduced cost per byte of data
- Continuous coverage 24/7/365 days/year
- Elimination of errors due to human fatigue
- Removing people and expensive assets from dangers at sea