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Anti-submarine warfare in a multinational context —
remote and autonomous underwater surveillance
By EDWARD LUNDQUIST, Special Correspondent
fication, underwater acoustic communications and networks, interoperability and decision support tools.
Underwater vehicles cannot
always phone home — or another
robot — when they find something.
They have to be able to do as much
processing as possible onboard, and
make decisions about what information is interesting and needs to
be shared, and what is not. The
vehicles need to know how to work
together and produce overall efficient group action.
But that comes with some very
significant challenges. Now that the
technology of autonomous vehicles
and robots is relatively mature, the challenge really has
shifted toward their intelligent behavior. It’s one thing to
make a system autonomous. It’s quite another to make
it intelligent. They have to know what to do.
Teams of autonomous sensor units, or agents, need
appropriate control and intelligence to prevent pathological behavior. Various techniques from the robotics
research community have been adapted and evaluated
for ASW applications. Collaboration with research
communities in multi-agent systems and distributed
sensor networks are being pursued to capitalize on
advances in these related fields.
“As part of Exercise Proud Manta in the Ionian Sea east
of Sicily, we validated the improved onboard processing
capabilities of our AUVs [autonomous underwater vehi-cles], which included the fusion of contacts using CMRE’s
Distributed Multi-Hypothesis Tracker and our communications suite we call NEMO,” LePage said. “Each sensor
node in the network, whether on an AUV, towed or stationary in the water, can conduct its own detections, classification and track formation individually. Then, we have
the ability to do underwater messaging, so each node can
share track information with its collaborators.”
Now that the technology of autonomous vehicles and robots is
relatively mature, the challenge has shifted toward their intelligent
■ They have to be able to do as much processing as possible
onboard, and make decisions about what information is interesting and needs to be shared, and what is not.
■ The vehicles need to know how to work together and produce
overall efficient group action.
■ Teams of autonomous sensor units need appropriate control
and intelligence to prevent pathological behavior.
NATO knows that looking for submarines in areas where you cannot or do not want to be is a big job. But sometimes a lot of little
pieces can help solve a large problem.
Submarine hunting has usually been conducted by
large, expensive, manned platforms against a relatively
well-known threat. Today, NATO’s Centre for Maritime
Research and Experimentation’s (CMRE’s) cooperative
anti-submarine warfare (CASW) effort involves a networked unmanned approach to off-board reconnaissance and surveillance in littoral waters.
CMRE is creating a heterogeneous, underwater,
adaptive sensing network with distributed intelligence
for persistent littoral surveillance of submarine targets.
“By adding autonomy to a distributed network of
moving sensors, we can reduce risk to personnel and
be more persistent, while at the same time reducing
cost,” said Kevin LePage, CASW program manager at
CMRE, based in La Spezia, Italy.
The CASW program brings together a multidisciplined science and technology effort to develop distributed sensing with local sensor processing, behavior sets
for autonomous multistatic platforms, automated classi-