Unveiling the Future: João II, the World’s First Drone-Carrying Vessel

The Portuguese Navy is making waves in the maritime world by commissioning a new, state-of-the-art multipurpose vessel.

The Vessel – João II

The vessel, christened João II, pays tribute to the King who played a pivotal role in promoting Atlantic exploration and maritime innovation. The Dutch company, Damen, is entrusted with its design and construction under the Multifunctional Naval Platform programme.

The exact contract value remains undisclosed. However, the project is expected to receive a financial boost of 94.5 million euros from the Recovery and Resilience Facility (FRR). This EU fund is aimed at supporting economies hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. An additional contribution of 37.5 million euros is anticipated from the Portuguese government.

Functionality and Usage

The vessel is being designed for a wide array of purposes. Along with traditional maritime surveillance, it will also be utilised for oceanographic and environmental research, and serve as a hub for emergency evacuation and rescue operations.

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Unprecedented Design

João II stands at 107.6 meters with a displacement of 7000 tons. It is set to make history as the first “drone carrier”, capable of deploying both air and naval , including submarines. This makes it the first ship globally to merge ocean research with drone deployment capabilities.

The Portuguese Navy's Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo sees this ship as a step towards the future, where human sailors and robotic counterparts will co-exist and collaborate.

Capacity and Amenities

The innovative vessel is designed to accommodate 48 crew members and up to 40 scientists. It comes equipped with a heavy transport helicopter, a 30-ton crane, and a role 2 hospital. It can also carry a dozen containers and provide emergency accommodation for an additional 200 people if necessary.

The João II is expected to join the active fleet by the second half of 2026, marking a new chapter in maritime innovation and exploration.

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