“The footprint on deck will actually be fairly small
relative to the size of the platform,” Mastroianni said.
A containerized canister launcher will deploy the
Coyotes very quickly. The aircraft then will move into
a formation and carry out the test mission.
Mastroianni shied away from discussing potential
mission specifics for UAV swarms, other than to say
that they would fall into the purview of the kinds of
tasks that would provide sea-based support to larger
Navy or Marine Corps missions.
He is keen on the seaborne aspect of the test, wanting to see how efficient the “logistics trail” can be.
Deployment of the UAVs must be something a
trained team of Sailors can perform, rather than “ 20
guys in lab coats,” Mastroianni said. “In an ideal world,
I hit the button, launch, and I don’t want to talk to [the
Reality, however, would dictate otherwise — specif-
ically as related to range safety and national policy.
“This is an area where policy, quite frankly, has to
catch up,” Mastroianni said. “You see in the news what
the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] has to say
about drones. If I say I want to do 30 UAVs flying off
the Florida coast, I’ve got 16 different agencies saying,
‘You want to do what? You don’t have absolute direct
control all the time?’”
In preparation for the seaborne test, the team plans to
conduct several land-based demonstrations at military
ranges in Arizona, Florida and Georgia. Its focus will be
on increasing the numbers and complexity of swarm
operations. These will continue until the project is ready
for the final demonstration, which at this point likely
would take place at the ranges maintained for Tyndall or
Eglin Air Force bases in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The biggest point is we’re not doing this in a lab,
we’re doing it at sea. We’re putting it in the hands of the
warfighter, in a real environment,” Mastroianni said.
“My goal is a turnkey solution. You put it on a ship,
where the operator has control. The operator pushes a
button, and off it goes. They’re single-use disposable. I
don’t want these back.”
Mastroianni spoke with confidence garnered from
nearly a year and a half of constant work on autonomous-
“We’ve been doing this for a while, Bob Brizzolara
and I,” Mastroianni said. “It’s not to the point where it’s
artificial intelligence, where they’re completely thinking for themselves. But it’s beyond the point of operators having to be involved once they hit the ‘go’ button.
If you can create a swarm quickly, with a UAV with
good endurance, range and payload, it’s kind of eyewatering — all the things you can do.” ;
53 WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / MAY 2015
Unmanned surface vehicles operate autonomously while escorting a high-value unit during an Office of Naval Research-sponsored demonstration of swarmboat technology on the James River in Newport News, Va., Aug. 13. During the
demonstration as many as 13 Navy boats, using a system called CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent
Command Sensing), operated autonomously or by remote control during escort, intercept and engage scenarios. The
concept is similar to what the LOCUST program will test with aerial vehicles next year.