Robot Ships of the U.S. Navy Can Operate Autonomously

110720-N-ZZ999-007 FORT MONROE, Va. (July 20, 2011) A common unmanned surface vehicle patrols for intruders during Trident Warrior 2011. The experimental boat can operate autonomously or by remote. The Trident Warrior experiment, directed by U.S. Fleet Forces Command, temporarily deploys advanced capabilities on ships to collect real-world data and feedback during an underway experimentation period. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Scott Youngblood/Released)

FORT MONROE, Va. (July 20, 2011) A common unmanned surface vehicle patrols for intruders during Trident Warrior 2011. The experimental boat can operate autonomously or by remote. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Scott Youngblood/Released)

With all the concern over autonomous robots in the military, one would think that they are more of a future concern than reality.  However, the U.S. Navy has operated robot ships for many years and continues to develop advanced capabilities for those autonomous ships.

I saw this article on the progress of new robot ships in America’s Navy and did some research on some of these craft.  Although photos exist for some of the more recent developments, the ones shown here from several years ago are still relevant for the showing the capabilities of these bot ships.

Robot Ship

Bluefin-12 AUV with a Buried Object Scanning Sonar (BOSS) integrated in two wings. This picture was taken in January 2005 of the coast of Florida during engineering trials.By Mierlo at English Wikipedia [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons

In order to counter the threat of diesel-electric submarines, the U.S Navy wants to develop these autonomous sub-hunters.  Diesel-electric subs are very cost effective compared to a nuclear attack boat and they can operate very quietly.  So, these subs are difficult to detect and even though they have limited range, pose a significant threat.

The primary motivation for developing these robot ships is cost.  They can operate in shallow waters and survey large areas to identify threats.  The robot ships will not attack, but will call in other navy assets to deal with the targets.

Work on the U.S. Navy’s new anti-submarine drone is progressing and that’s bad news for diesel-electric subs.

The prototype of the ACTUV is named Sea Hunter and is due to begin sea trials in the fall of this year.  Then the decision will be made on deployment of these vessels.

Robot Ship

The prototype of the U.S. Navy’s robot ship is the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) Image Credit: darpa.mil

What do you think about these robot ships?  The military seems to be set on developing autonomous vehicles of all kinds.  Although these ships will not be armed, but they will have to be able to correctly identify threats from other surface ships and other objects on and under the water.  These robot ships will have to operate for months autonomously and probably at great distances from other support vessels if the details of these designs are correct.

Perhaps the robot ships will have human monitors to oversee their operations and take the helm if needed.  It is hard to believe the robotic craft would be purely autonomous at all times.

Let me know with your comments.

Source: US Navy to Deploy Robot Ships to Track Chinese and Russian Subs

Underwater Robots Work in Cold, Dark to Stop Oil Spill

In a desperate effort to stop the massive oil leak occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, robots are attempting to seal off the well spewing the crude.  These machines are controlled from the surface by operators trained to operate them in the darkness over 5,000 feet below sea level.  Robots once again are showing that they have an important role to play in areas where it is impossible for humans to operate outside of specially designed vehicles.  If the robots cannot turn off the leaks, then it could be months before the leaks are stopped.  Read the story at the link below. 

“Pilots using jetfighter-like joy sticks and computer screens to guide robots a mile underwater are crucial to BP’s efforts to stop a leaking oil well that’s gushing thousands of barrels a day in the Gulf of Mexico.”

David Wethe on May 4 at Bloomberg.com

Underwater Robots Probe ‘Inner Space’ to Plug Leaking Oil Well – Bloomberg.com

Robot Ocean Gliders

Researchers are preparing to send forth a swarm of underwater gliders for a mission to explore the tropical Atlantic.  Information on temperature, salinity, oxygen and chlorophyll content as well as the turbidity of the sea water will be measured and sent back to the scientists at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) in Kiel, Germany. 

As reported on the website at IFM-GEOMAR,  “A very successful mission using a single glider took place between August and October 2009 in the Atlantic Ocean, south of the Cape Verde Islands. The robot carried out measurements along a more than 1000 kilometres long track autonomously, before it was recovered by the German research vessel METEOR. The data collected are accessible online at http://gliderweb.ifm-geomar.de/html/ifm03_depl05_frame.html.”

Now a fleet of these torpedo-like craft will venture out to document the ocean properties in the tropical Atlantic.  Read the entire story from TG Daily at the link below, and then see all other articles on this in the other stories link.

TG Daily

Europe's largest fleet of underwater robot gliders is about to embark on its first research mission in the tropical Atlantic. The gliders, operated by
See all stories on this topic

Robot gliders take to the seas
TG Daily
Fri, 15 Jan 2010 13:39:15 GMT

Robot Crawls the Seafloor to Explore Life

From New Scientist comes this story about a deep sea rover, called Benthic Rover, that is exploring the ocean’s depths.  Hard to believe that we know less about the ocean floor than is known about the surface of Mars.  This automobile-sized robot, developed by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), is attempting to change that by traveling across the abyssal seafloor. In order to achieve this feat, engineers had to overcome several challenges.  Obviously, the biggest barrier to this type of exploration is the extreme pressure at depth.  To protect the sensitive electronics systems, custom titanium spheres were built to contain them.  In order to keep from sinking in the muddy seafloor, special flotation devices allow the rover to crawl across the marine sediment.  To prevent the tank-like threads on the robot from stirring up clouds of fine particles, a pair of off-the-shelf broom heads keep the threads clean. 

You can read all about this robot at the link below and at the New Scientist and at the MBARI website.

Benthic rover during test dive

Image: © 2007 MBARI

The Benthic Rover makes its way across the deep seafloor during a trial run in 2007. The "brains" of the vehicle are protected by a spherical titanium pressure housing. The orange and yellow objects are made of incompressible foam, whose buoyancy makes the Rover light enough underwater so that it won't sink into the soft deep-sea mud. 

Source: Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Like the robotic rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which wheeled tirelessly across the dusty surface of Mars, a new robot spent most of July traveling across the muddy ocean bottom, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) off the California coast. This robot, the Benthic Rover, has been providing scientists with an entirely new view of life on the deep seafloor. It will also give scientists a way to document the effects of climate change on the deep sea.

New Robot Travels Across The Seafloor To Monitor The Impact Of Climate Change On Deep-sea Ecosystems
Thu, 10 Sep 2009 18:00:00 GMT

RobotNext Weekly Newswrap

This week’s newswrap features stories that deal with exploration.  Everything from underwater to climate in the arctic and beyond the Earth.  One story from earlier in the week deals with robot navigation in different situations.  Still, this story does cover an aspect of robotics that is important in exploration.  I hope you enjoy looking over the articles linked to below.  Let me know which ones you liked best.

Underwater robots to rapidly identify potential threats in murky … – Newstrack India

Washington, July 5 (ANI): A team of scientists is developing novel underwater laser networking and imaging technologies that will be used onboard a group of small, co-operating robots, which will be able to rapidly identify and communicate potential …

Underwater robots to rapidly identify potential threats in murky … – Newstrack India
Sun, 05 Jul 2009 06:15:00 GMT

 

NASA Suggests Nano Robots To Explore Mars (Slashdot)

"'We're going to have to do extensive robotic exploration,' says the director of NASA's Ames Research Center, suggesting nanotechnology to build self-replicating robots on Mars. Genetically engineering extraction and construction microbes could 'grow' electrical components, and eventually convert carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen. 'If we really want to settle Mars, and we …

NASA Suggests Nano Robots To Explore Mars (Slashdot)
Thu, 02 Jul 2009 13:36:25 GMT


Robots Monitor the Melting Arctic

Earlier this year NOAA warned that increased global warming was combining with natural variability in the Arctic and could result in an ice-free Arctic in as little as 30 years, rather than the end of the century as predict by earlier models. This has created a sense of urgency among organizations studying the changes. NOAA and NASA have combined forces with Northrop Grumman to create a specially modified Global Hawk UAV that will make 6 long duration mission over the Arctic and the Pacific ocean to collect data in troposphere and lower stratosphere. .

Meanwhile, Seaglider robots have been deployed off Greenland to make more accurate measurements of Arctic sea currents. Scientist believe the Arctic runoff is already altering the density of sea water in the Labrador Sea, driving critical ocean circulation that affect the global climate.  Canada is also deploying two AUVs to scan the seabed to further their claims in the coming UN Convention that will determine which nations get sovereign rights to the new ocean areas forming as the Arctic melts.

Robots Monitor the Melting Arctic
Wed, 01 Jul 2009 16:41:32 GMT


Human-like Vision Lets Robots Navigate Naturally

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2009) — A robotic vision system that mimics key visual functions of the human brain promises to let robots maneuver quickly and
See all stories on this topic

Human-like Vision Lets Robots Navigate Naturally
Science Daily (press release) – USA
Tue, 30 Jun 2009 15:48:20 GMT


Intelligent Robot Probes to Explore Beyond Mars

Caltech scientists are working on intelligent exploratory craft which could investigate alien worlds without human instruction. While missions to MARS can be remotely controlled, as we set our sights further afield the light speed
The Daily Galaxy: Great Discoveries… – http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/

Intelligent Robot Probes to Explore Beyond Mars
Casey Kazan Daily Galaxy Editorial Staff
Tue, 30 Jun 2009 22:11:52 GMT