The use of drones brings to mind unmanned planes flying over enemy targets. Now, the US Navy is taking up the use of swarms of drone boats, or “unmanned surface vehicles” (USVs), which are remotely controlled autonomous boats that can help the US Navy in some of its most dangerous missions.
Improving Multidimensional Situational Awareness
The attractiveness to the Navy is related to the relatively inexpensive deployment and operation of small drone watercraft versus the much larger and more expensive use of large manned platforms. Through the use of “swarm robotics,” a complex mission, according to the Navy, may have a higher probability of success in certain types of deployments as individual USVs could be lost without knocking out the whole fleet.
According to US Navy reports, a USV “Distributed system” is easy and inexpensive to set up with manned boats convertible to unmanned boats with the simple installation of an inexpensive kit.
Successful Demonstration of USVs
Last year, the Office of Naval Research and other related agencies conducted a four boat USV swarm demonstration on the James River in Virginia over a three day period.
The setup of the swarm included:
- The Naval Expeditionary Combatant Command
- The US Coast Guard
- Spatial Integrated Systems, Inc.
- Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing (CARACaS)
- Naval Surface Warfare Center
The demonstration included a “straits transit” with an attack scenario.
The entire operation depended on DADFS or data fusion algorithms developed by Daniel Wagner Associates and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Following is a video of Autonomous Swarm boats in action: