PLUSNet aims to use multiple underwater vehicles to
keep an electronic eye on the ocean environment through
semi-autonomous sensors able to talk to one another and
make basic decisions in the absence of human direction.
They will perform a variety of functions aimed at forecasting the undersea environment and sampling for temperature, currents, salinity, chemical composition, marine
populations and other marine elements.
Although the Navy currently uses sensors for such
forecasts, they must be manually positioned into a
variety of configurations as dictated by the ocean environment — an often time-consuming process.
“Right now, you put the sensor in the water and if you
need to change it then some human has to go make that
change, in terms of raising it from the ship or lowering it
from the airplane or whatever you have to do,” Landay
said. “So let’s see if we can take some of these sensors that
Nodes in the Net
PLUSNet will comprise a variety of autonomous
underwater vehicles and sensor technologies,
■ Seahorse: A platform that can easily drift while
maintaining a sensing mode. Will be equipped with
a high-frequency billboard sensor array on its port
and starboard sides for maximum coverage.
■ Bluefin-21: Uses a buoyancy engine to allow
drifting and bottoming modes of operation.
Combines acoustic sensing capability with
mobility to allow adaptive search behaviors
under autonomous and supervised control.
■ Seaglider: An energy-efficient glider for environmental sampling while functioning as
PLUSNet’s communications backbone. When a
glider receives an urgent acoustic message,
Seaglider will alter its flight profile to rapidly surface and transmit ashore.
■ Slocum Glider: A long-range deep ocean glider
designed to cruise in a vertical saw-tooth plane, the
Slocum Glider will employ an acoustic towed array,
enhance adaptive environmental sampling and
sensing, and will support network communications.
■ X-Ray Glider: The world’s largest underwater glider, it will offer a higher speed and greater
load-carrying capacity than existing gliders,
boasting acoustics and electric field sensors,
along with acoustic and satellite communications capabilities. ■
we’re developing and give them the ability to move” with
unmanned and autonomous technologies.
Ultimately, the Navy expects these robots to be
launched from a ship or submarine with an initial mission
profile that could be modified in response to real-time
sensory data sampled from the surrounding environment.
Currently, the Navy relies on generic models to make
such predictions, Landay said, adding that the development of newer, high-end models is helping to increase
forecast capabilities. The Navy now has “much better
models,” although they tend to exist onshore, he said.
But that is changing. With computing technology
what it is today, “we’re starting to be able to do more
and more high-end stuff,” Landay said.
While this type of real-time data collection and processing is only beginning to take shape, particularly in
the area of underwater gliders, the Navy has high
PLUSNet aims to use a variety of underwater vehicles to keep an electronic eye on the ocean environment through semi-autonomous sensors able to talk
to one another and make basic decisions without