UAS & Robotics

Navy forges ahead with autonomous underwater programs


A REMUS 600 autonomous undersea vehicle configured with a small synthetic aperture mine hunter.

The Navy is has awarded a $35.5 million contract to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for continued support of several autonomous, undersea vehicle programs and related advanced ocean technologies.

The award to Woods Hole, which has long been involved in the Navy’s oceangoing autonomous efforts, covers a variety of technology areas, including battery and energy systems, propulsion, navigation, sensors, acoustic communications, data acquisition and the development of new functionality for shipboard systems, according to a Defense Department announcement. The Navy is looking to make improvements in performance and rapid prototyping of new technologies.

Among the programs the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole will support are:

The Persistent Littoral Undersea Surveillance, or PLUS, program, which uses small, autonomous “sea gliders” that can be deployed from a ship, collect sensor data on potential threats and, after surfacing, transmit that data back to the ship.

The Digital Acoustic Communications development program, a project to increase the range of underwater communications with submarines by finding ways to increase data rates in less-than-optimal conditions.

The Remote Environmental Measuring Units (REMUS) autonomous undersea vehicle (AUV) program, which involves torpedo-shaped autonomous vehicles that can be operated from a single laptop and used in coastal monitoring, surveying, mapping, mine hunting and recording other ocean characteristics. They also can be adapted to find and follow tagged marine animals such as sharks.

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal “Fast Track” program, which seeks to detect explosive devices underwater and prevent radio-controlled detonation.

The REMUS Automated Submarine Launch and Recovery Capability program, which allows submarines to launch and recover REMUS underwater vehicles with minimum integration requirements.

The majority (55 percent) of the work under the contract will be performed at Woods Hole, with other jobs spread out at 11 sites in the continental United States and Hawaii.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit research and educational facility that was started in 1930 and has performed various marine research and development projects for Navy projects since World War II.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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