The Great Underwater Wall of Robots

The Chinese Navy is making growing investments in unmanned surface and underwater systems, aka “drones.” They are experimenting in building autonomous UUVs of all shapes and sizes, looking to make them work together with each other, and Chinese warships too. The China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), which builds virtually all Chinese Navy warships, has proposed an “Underwater Great Wall” of sensors, positioned on the seabed floor, to listen for enemy submarines.

The Promise of Technology: US Navy Could Save Billions of Dollars Sending Robots to Patrol the Oceans

By Sandra Irwin One of the defense industry’s most secretive technology developers — Boeing’s Phantom Works — is making a big bet on commercial robots it believes are better suited to military needs and cheaper than anything the Pentagon could ever invent. Seeing an obvious need in the U.S. Navy and motivated by the Pentagon’s rhetoric that it intends to buy innovative products from the commercial industry, Boeing executives decided to depart from the traditional defense business model and spend company funds to develop a family of autonomous mini-submarines. Boeing has worked on maritime robots for decades but in recent years, Phantom Works — known for designing stealth fighters and high-concept vehicles — has “really stepped up its investment in autonomous underwater vehicles,” said Lance Towers, director of advanced technology programs at Boeing’s Electronic & Information Solutions division. The market for robots has been booming in the defense sector since…

The Navy’s Unmanned Drone Ship – Sea Hunter

DARPA has announced its 132-foot Unmanned Surface Vehicle called Sea Hunter. It is highly autonomous and can stay at sea for months at a time. Comprised of three main areas, Sea Hunter is packed to the gills with sensors, fuel tanks, computers, and anti-fire mechanisms. Leidos, the company formally known as Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) was contracted by DARPA to build Sea Hunter.

Industry M&A – General Dynamics Acquires Bluefin Robotics

General Dynamics Mission Systems has acquired Bluefin Robotics and added it to its Marine and Strategic Systems business. Bluefin Robotics makes unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs). The company was founded in 1997 by engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AUV Laboratory and was a subsidiary of Battelle Memorial Institute Inc. In 2011, the company received a subcontract from General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems for the Surface Mine Countermeasure UUV, known as Knifefish.   General Dynamics Buys UUV Maker Bluefin Robotics

Elbit Introduces Seagull USV

Developed in less than three years with technical and performance input from the Israeli Navy and Israel’s Ministry of Defense, Elbit Systems unveiled a prototype of. the Seagull USV that can complement or even replace expensive, manpower-intensive frigates or aircraft currently used to hunt submarines at sea. Seagull is a 12-meter USV with replaceable mission modules, with two vessels capable of being operated and controlled in concert using a single Mission Control System (MCS), from manned ships or from the shore. The system provides unmanned end-to-end mine hunting operation taking the man out of the mine field. It provides mission planning, and on-line operation in known and unknown areas, including area survey, search, detection, classification, identification, neutralization and verification. It is equipped to search the entire water volume and operate underwater vehicles to identify and neutralize mines.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles are Changing Business Models

Unmanned vehicles are profoundly impacting business models on land and in air. In the maritime sector, this sort of growth has been lagging, but it is beginning to catch up. Traditionally, unmanned vehicles, especially ROVs, have been critical to successful marine operations but have not changed the business model for maritime industries. The cost of vessels and staff still dominates the economics of most marine operations. This is now changing with the growth of “low-logistics” unmanned vehicles, including ROVs and AUVs. In the last decade, there has been a change in attitude towards AUV operations. Previously, the AUV was reserved for specialist activities in specific jobs, requiring much mobilization effort, dedicated vessels, and an extensive suite of ancillary equipment. The marine community may not be on the verge of profound disruption, like the kind brought about by aviation “drones,” but new low-logistics, high-performance unmanned vehicles are definitely offering new options for improved…

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