Video: US Navy tests unmanned swarming boats

Photo: US Navy

The U.S. Office of Naval Research has recently tested autonomous unmanned swarming boats during a demonstration in the lower Chesapeake Bay.

According to the service, the results have revealed ‘dramatic new possibilities’ for autonomy in future naval missions.

Using a combination of software, radar and other sensors, officials from the Office of Naval Research (ONR)—together with partners from industry, academia and other government organizations—were able to get a “swarm” of rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) and other small boats to collectively perform patrol missions autonomously, with only remote human supervision, rather than direct human operation, as they performed their missions.

“This demonstration showed some remarkable advances in autonomous capabilities,” said Cmdr. Luis Molina, military deputy for ONR’s sea warfare and weapons dept. “While previous work had focused on autonomous protection of high-value ships, this time we were focused on harbor approach defense.”

The autonomy technology being developed by ONR is called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or CARACaS.

The components that make up CARACaS (some are commercial off-the-shelf) are inexpensive compared to the costs of maintaining manned vessels for some of the dull, dirty or dangerous tasks—all of which can be found in the work of harbor approach defense, experts say.

“The U.S. Navy knows our most important asset, without question, is our highly trained military personnel,” said Dr. Robert Brizzolara, the program officer at ONR who oversees the effort. “The autonomy technology we are developing for our Sailors and Marines is versatile enough that it will assist them in performing many different missions, and it will help keep them safer.”

In 2014, ONR completed the first major demonstration of CARACaS technology on the James River in Virginia. At that time, the transportable kit containing the autonomy package was installed on multiple RHIBs, allowing them to operate in sync with other unmanned vessels, swarming to intercept potential enemy ships and escorting naval assets.

The demonstration held this year in October built upon the lessons learned from that successful demo. Brizzolara says that substantial additional capability has been added to CARACaS since the 2014 demo, including the ability for multiple unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) to collaborate on task allocation; the development of additional USV behaviors and tactics; and advances in automated vessel classification from imagery.

During the demo, unmanned boats were given a large area of open water to patrol. As an unknown vessel entered the area, the group of swarmboats collaboratively determined which patrol boat would quickly approach the unknown vessel, classify it as harmless or suspicious, and communicate with other swarmboats to assist in tracking and trailing the unknown vessel while others continued to patrol the area. During this time, the group of swarmboats provided status updates to a human supervisor.

“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” added Molina. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”

 

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Sea-Air-Space 2018

Sea-Air-Space is now the largest maritime exposition in the U.S. and continues as an invaluable extension of the Navy League’s mission…

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Maritime Reconnaissance and Surveillance Technology 2017

Maximising Maritime Situational Awareness Capabilities for the Safety and Protection of International Waters

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After last year’s huge success the SMi Group is proud to announce the 2nd Maritime Reconnaissance and Surveillance Technology. The event will be held in Rome on the 30th and 31st of January 2017.

Based on the success of the 2016 conference, we aim to replicate and improve by providing a more regional focus, not just on the Mediterranean, but other areas of interest including the Black Sea and further beyond in the Asia Pacific region. All of which have keen collective interest on ensuring the safety and security of legitimate maritime activities.

This high level meeting will bring together senior military leadership, project decision makers, technical experts and cutting edge industry solution providers to explore future endeavours that will enhance the security and stability of the world’s oceans.

The 2017 programme will:

  • Provide a wider regional focus outside of the Mediterranean where challenges are also persistent
  • Feature high ranking military personnel involved with the enhancement of maritime surveillance platforms and systems
  • Present a running theme on the importance of information sharing as operations are increasingly conducted at an international level
  • Include Informal networking time to talk to peers and colleagues also shaping and influencing Maritime ISR programs today
  • Allow learning on how other nations are developing their maritime surveillance and reconnaissance provision from past experience and cutting edge research and development
  • Get to the heart of challenges faced by modern maritime forces such as capability gaps and what requirements they now have

HOST NATION KEYNOTE SPEAKERS:

  • Rear Admiral Giovanbattista Raimondi, Chief of C4 and Security Department, Italian Navy
  • Rear Admiral Nicola Carlone, Chief of Operations, Italian Coast Guard
  • Colonel Sergio Cavuoti, Chief of the Intelligence and Awareness Policy Branch of the Air Staff Aerospace Planning Division, Italian Air Force

REGIONAL EXPERT SPEAKERS:

  • Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino, EU Navfor Med Operation Commander, EU Naval Force
  • Commodore William Ellis, Commander CTF-67, US Naval Forces Europe
  • Captain Jan De Beurme, Chief of Staff, Belgian Navy
  • Captain Fernando Angelo, Director, Navy Intelligence Analysis Centre,  Portuguese Navy 
  • Wing Commander Richard Berry, P-8 Poseidon Program Manager, Royal Air Force
  • Commander Michael Sela, Head of C5I Branch in the R&D department, Israeli Navy
  • Commander Pasi Staff, Chief of Surveillance, Finnish Navy
  • Commander Hannes Schroeder-Lanz, Branch Chief C4ISR, Germany Navy
  • Guy Thomas, Director, C-SIGMA
  • Gerard O’Flynn, Head of SAR Ops, Irish Coast Guard
  • Leendert Bal, Head of Department C Operations, European Maritime Safety
  • Joachim Beckh, Technical Working Group Chair, MARSUR
  • Vice Admiral (Ret’d) Peter Hudson, Former Commander, NATO MARCOM

 

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Register online at: www.maritime-recon.com/navaltoday or email Justin Predescu on
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10th annual Border Security Conference

The 2017 conference will possibly be the most relevant and topical event to date as we enter our 10th successive year…

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Sea-Air-Space 2017

Sea-Air-Space is now the largest maritime exposition in the U.S. and continues as an invaluable extension of the Navy League’s mission…

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