Navy tests unmanned surface system applications
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Assistant Editor
Autonomous ‘Brain Power’
(SIS) Inc., Kinston, N.C., is the
lead systems integrator for AMN.
During the week-long Trident
Warrior 2011, the Navy demonstrated the cooperative autonomy of
unmanned systems; the ability to
integrate national, theater and tactical sensors across networks; support
for a single, shared common operating picture; and improved tactics,
techniques and procedures to prevent hostile applications or malicious programs from gaining unauthorized shipboard Internet access.
More than 60 new technologies were put through their
paces on shore nodes, at sea and in the air.
The goal of the exercise was to protect a port area
with three different small boats and one Rigid Hull
Inflatable Boat (RHIB) equipped with AMN technology. Two of the vessels were developed by NSWCCD,
the third was developed by AAI Textron Systems,
Wilmington, Mass., and the fourth by Northrop
Grumman Electronic Systems, Linthicum, Md.
The vessels patrolled more than 15 million feet of
water space. Each was assigned a specific zone to
patrol. If an outside ship got close to a patrolled zone,
an AMN-equipped vessel would broadcast a prerecorded warning message and follow the vessel of interest
until it was escorted out of the designated danger area
inside its patrol zone.
“You want to make the vessel of interest show intent
for what they may do,” Conti said. “The boats being
able to know where they are and operating together
has greatly improved.”
The AMN technology used in the exercise is small,
portable and fits on the top of a vessel. It includes a full-
spectrum sensor suite that scans for objects and targets at
long and short ranges, according to SIS. Also employed
are radar, airborne laser detection and ranging, stereo
optical cameras, Global Positioning System equipment,
The Navy believes the use of Autonomous Maritime Navigation
(AMN) could expand Sailor safety and enhance current operations across the globe.
■ Navy officials see the possibilities grow as the technology matures.
■ Using “sliding autonomy,” AMN can be fully autonomous or
operate via remote control.
■ AMN testing will include the use of weapons in the coming years.
Data gathered during testing shows the poten- tial for a broad application of Autonomous Maritime Navigation (AMN) technology
within the fleet, Navy officials say.
“Everything is experimental at this point, and we still
need to iron out a lot of the legal issues that an unmanned
boat has. The technology is there, though. … Our job is
to see what’s possible and try to make it better,” Capt. Carl
Conti, director fleet experimentation, U.S. Fleet Forces
Command, told Seapower during the Trident Warrior
2011 exercise July 20 at Fort Monroe, Va.
Legal issues, he said, could range from following airspace requirements to deciding who cleans up in the
event of an accident involving an unmanned system.
Trident Warrior is an annual exercise during which
advanced capabilities are temporarily deployed on
ships “to collect real-world performance data and feedback from fleet users during an underway experimentation period,” according to Fleet Forces Command.
Since 2003, Trident Warrior has provided experiment
support for more than 600 programs of record.
The development of AMN, under the guidance of
the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division
(NSWCCD), Md., began in 2006 and leverages autonomy software used on the NASA Jet Propulsion
Laboratory’s Mars Rover. Spatial Integrated Systems