In 2017, Robert Dane was awarded the 2017 Spitfire Memorial Defence Association Fellowship. Robert is Intel Environment Laureate and a WWF Future Maker recipient and was recently honoured to be a finalist for the International Windship Awards Lifetime Achievement Award
In 1996, Robert, a passionate sailor and environmentalist, invented and patented the 'solarsail' and designed the first 'solarsailor' prototype. In 1997, Solar Sailor won the Advanced Technology Boat Race in Canberra, beating the next solar boat by 5 laps of 6km (30km) using a new patented 'solar sail' - a simple device which harnesses both solar and wind energy in a seaworthy manner. The first commercial 'solarsailor' ferry won the Australian Design Award of the Year in 2001.
Ocius Technology Ltd (formerly Solar Sailor Holdings Ltd), of which Robert is founder and CEO, is an Australian public unlisted company with Research and Development facilities at the University of NSW. The company has proven a solid track record of conceiving, funding, and delivering difficult, innovative, high-tech, award-winning projects on time and on budget.
The company has built multiple 'solarsailor' prototypes and six high-tech, award winning, hybrid electric, commercial passenger ferries to international classification requirements, which together have carried tens of thousands of passengers.
Following an enquiry from the USA in 2007 for a 'platform that could go to sea forever', the company began research into the development of unmanned solar/wind/wave powered ocean vessels or autonomous unmanned surface vessels. Initially, a 20-foot manned engineering development model (EDM) proved the 'speed of advance' in all conditions, adequate power, payload and persistence for a sustainable platform go to sea for months.
Ocius built multiple scale models for tank and lake testing, culminating in the building of the first 10' prototype called 'Nemo' (Latin for 'no one' ie unmanned) which provided significant proof of concept of a solar, wind and wave powered USV carrying a significant payload.
Based on Nemo's development, in 2015, Ocius was awarded a Capability Technology Demonstrator (CTD) from Defence Science and Technology Group. This proved a significant contract and Ocius with our partner Thales developed an 18' prototype 'Bruce' for Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW), which was demonstrated to the NAVY in August 2017.
In Sept 2018, Ocius was awarded its second defence contract under the Defence Innovation Hub to build an intelligent “Command and Control (C2) network” of intelligent persistent unmanned surface vessels.
In November 2019 'Bruce' participated Autonomous Warrior War games in Jervis Bay. Due to extreme weather, 'Bruce' was often the only USV operating. Ocius' intelligent C2 system was used to control another Navy WAMV catamaran and 2 DSTG UUVs.
From May - June 2019, Ocius completed 6 week endurance and intelligent networking trials in a designated AMSA approved 'box' off the NSW Coast,
Ocius is continuing its work into the development of commercial craft as well as unmanned surface craft. Robert recently expressed his gratitude 'to the Spitfire Association, its President, Geoff Zuber, and Committee for their support, particularly Lysle Roberts, who was a great inspiration to us and the students who worked on the project at UNSW'.