Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has partnered with the U.S. Navy to conduct an at-sea demonstration of swarming unmanned surface vehicles in an effort to advance collaborative behaviors of autonomous USVs.
The lab said Monday the activity used six surface target boats equipped with boat control systems from the Naval Air Warfare Center weapons division’s surface targets branch and APL-developed hardware and operator control station software.
The boats operated together at speeds of up to 35 knots and executed fully autonomous behaviors such as cooperative persistent search, target detection as well as tracking, rendezvous, pursuit and escort, APL added.
“To our knowledge, this represents the first time that six autonomous vessels have ‘swarmed’ at tactically relevant speeds… And the joint team implemented a full safety protocol without the need for additional safety boats,” said Jim Horris, APL program manager for autonomy test and evaluation.
APL noted the demonstration also showed the challenges behind USV swarming at high speeds and the changes required to build the operational “trust” to support autonomous systems.