US Navy's New Zombie Drone: An Autonomous Sea-going Killer
February 24, 2016 Voice of America News & Fox News
It's 131 feet long and can prowl the world's ocean for months at a time -- all by itself without a human on board. The robot drone -- aka an Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, or ACTUV -- is the largest unmanned surface vehicle ever built. This new vessel will patrol the world's oceans hunting and tracking enemy submarines -- and it will execute deadly missions without a single human aboard. So who is held accountable when people die?
New Sea Drone Set for Ocean Trials Voice of America News
(February 19, 2016) -- It's almost 40 meters long and can prowl the world's ocean for months at a time -- all by itself without a human on board. The drone, which is officially called an Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, or ACTUV, is the largest unmanned surface vehicle ever built.
Starting this April, the drone, which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), will begin an 18-month period of sea trials to see how it performs in real-world conditions.
The sea trials will be overseen by the US Navy, and in the future, the drone could be used for reconnaissance, such as tracking enemy submarines and for resupplying troops around the world. It reportedly can operate for between 60 and 90 days all by itself.
According to Fox News, the drone will have a kind of technological logic that would allow it to predict the behavior of enemy vessels. The logic could also allow the ACTUV to outmaneuver potential threats.
"Imagine an unmanned surface vessel following all the laws of the sea on its own and operating with manned surface and unmanned underwater vehicles," said DARPA deputy director, Steve Walker, at a press conference earlier this month.
(February 18, 2016) -- A new vessel will patrol the world's oceans hunting and tracking enemy submarines -- and it will execute missions without a single human aboard.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that pioneers tech for the US military, created the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program. Reston, Va.-based company Leidos is working with the agency to develop the groundbreaking ship.
On Tuesday DARPA tweeted a picture of ACTUV being prepared for sea trials in the spring.
Without a human crew, this drone vessel will be able to execute important missions independently like tracking and trailing an enemy sub over thousands of miles -- not just for a day or two, or even a few weeks -- this drone could hunt the enemy for months.
The ACTUV enemy submarine hunter is expected to be about 130 feet long. DARPA has announced that it will be revealed for the first time on April 7 when it will also be christened in Portland, Oregon.
In addition to hunting enemy subs, ACTUV will be capable of a wide range of missions, such as reconnaissance and counter-mine deployments. It could also be useful to resupply troops.
What's the Threat?
The rise of tough-to-detect and track diesel electric submarines poses a significant challenge to the US Navy. ACTUV is designed to excel at tracking these ultra-quiet subs.
Diesel-electric submarines come at a relatively cheap price point of about $250 million, while giving their owners the advantage of stealthy movements beneath the surface due to their virtually silent engines.
How quiet is quiet? Reports suggest that some of these subs can be 15 decibels more quiet than a humpback whale.
Iran claims to have fleets of these sneaky subs.
How ACTUV Will Be a Game Changer
Enter ACTUV, which could roam the oceans for thousands and thousands of miles executing missions.
For next level tracking, the vessel will be armed with state-of-the art sensors allowing it to detect the quietest of enemy subs. The idea is that it will be nearly impossible for a hostile sub to slip the ACTUV when the unmanned vessel is on its tail.
Despite being smaller than traditional subs, the ACTUV will be able to achieve speeds that exceed diesel electric propulsion submarines - and for a fraction of the cost.
ACTUV will have "logic" that allows it to not just identify other vessels, but also predict how they will behave. The sub hunter will be so smart that it should be able to interact, counter and outmaneuver manned enemy vessels.
It will be able to run operations as part of a team with other unmanned vessels operating beneath the water and on the surface. The sub hunter could also work in cooperation with manned vessels.
And get this -- ACTUV is designed to figure out and comply with maritime laws, such as regulations to prevent collisions.
When ACTUV enters service, it will give the US military a range of advantages. Rather than send out a destroyer or a nuclear sub, ACTUV could be deployed, freeing up those assets and keeping costs down.
ACTUV will offer lots of versatility, such as launching from and returning to a pier -- rather than having to deploy from a ship like other UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles). ACTUV will also give the Navy a vessel with far better endurance. It will also be able to carry far more weight than lots of the drone surface vessels launched from ships.
After the big reveal in April, ACTUV will continue to be tested and refined. Drone Swarms Join the Navy Allison Barrie / Fox News
(June 19, 2015) -- Just like how locust swarms can cause devastating natural disasters, the US Navy's Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) drones could devastate adversaries.
A fitting acronym, the Navy's LOCUST is a new revolutionary technology where swarms of compact drones can work together and execute missions autonomously. Drone swarms could overwhelm threats to the military.
A desert locust swarm can total over 400 square miles large, 160 million strong per square mile and each locust can eat its weight in plants every day. Swarms can also travel extraordinary distances even from Africa to northern Europe -- no wonder locust swarms have been feared throughout history.
The Office of Naval Research recently demonstrated some of their swarm's capabilities. They launched their Coyote UAVs that can be used for various types of LOCUST swarm missions.
Approximately three feet long, Coyote drones weigh about 12 pounds and can fly for about 90 minutes. They can reach a maximum speed of 85 knots. After launch, Coyotes wings unfold to fly. Coyotes were flown into Hurricane Eduoard last summer to gather information.
The demonstration revealed that nine drones could synchronize and execute formations in flight all on their own.
How Does It Work?
The ONR says that the LOCUST program features a tube-based launcher that sends the drones into the air one after another.
LOCUST leverages big advances in how drones can share information with one another. The drones can take action autonomously working together without humans. They can collaborate and execute offensive or defensive missions.
Swarms don't just launch from ships, but also from aircraft or large drone platforms. They can also launch from tactical vehicles or ground-based installations.
While the drones are autonomous, the ONR stressed that humans will actively monitor missions and be on hand to step in and take control.
"This level of autonomous swarming flight has never been done before. UAVs that are expendable and reconfigurable will free manned aircraft and traditional weapon systems to do more, and essentially multiply combat power at decreased risk to the warfighter," said ONR program manager Lee Mastroianni in a press release.
There are a number of advantages to drone swarms. Drone swarms could take on missions to free up sailors and US Marines for other work.
The Navy says that hundreds of these small UAVs will cost less than a single tactical aircraft, and lowering costs is another great advantage.
UAV swarms could provide sailors and Marines with a significant tactical advantage.
Last year, the Navy revealed drone boats that could swarm a threat vessel and overwhelm it. The drone boats would leverage technology developed by NASA for use on its Mars rover. The swarms could also protect Marines and sailors on board larger ships.
Next year, the Navy aims to launch 30 drones from a ship in rapid succession.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie. Related: Israeli Company Showcases Robot Warship Fox News
(February 10, 2016) -- Israeli defense specialist Elbit Systems has unveiled an unmanned naval vessel designed for anti-mine and anti-submarine operations.
Seagull, a 39.4-feet long Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV), was unveiled Monday. "The system provides unmanned end-to-end mine hunting operation taking the man out of the mine field," explained Elbit, in a press release. The system, it added, can also operate underwater vehicles to identify and destroy mines.
Two Seagull vessels can be operated using a single control system, from either manned ships or the shore, according to Elbit.
"Seagull changes the dynamics of anti-submarine operations by creating a threat to submarines using a cost-effective and available asset, replacing and augmenting manned assets with minimal threat from submarines," added Elbit Systems, in its press release.
The ship uses a patented Autonomous Navigation System (ANS), which enables it to avoid obstacles and takes into account international regulations for preventing collisions at sea.
A number of militaries are testing unmanned vessels. The US Navy, for example, has already demonstrated drone boats that could swarm a threat vessel and overwhelm it.
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