Military Embedded Systems

Dept. of Defense autonomous vessel hits milestones in crucial transit test


January 18, 2021

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

U.S. DoD photo/Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Cyr

ARLINGTON, Va. A U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) unmanned surface vessel (USV) -- part of the Ghost Fleet Overlord autonomous-vessel partnership between the DoD's Strategic Capabilities Office and the U.S. Navy -- recently traveled a distance of more than 4,700 nautical miles (5,409 miles), almost entirely autonomously. After this transit the ship participated in an exercise called "Dawn Blitz," where it again spent nearly all of its time operating autonomously. 

The most recent trip involved a USV traveling from the Gulf Coast to the coast of California, with autonomous operation approximately 97% of the time, according to a report from the U.S. DoD. Although the USV did have an onboard crew, mission command and control for the trip was performed from a remote location by sailors with Surface Development Squadron One. Traverse of the Panama Canal was one of the few times the USV was steered by its onboard crew. Following arrival on the U.S. West Coast, the USV participated in December's Dawn Blitz exercise with the Navy and Marine Corps, during which it demonstrated compliance with international regulations for preventing collisions at sea, station-keeping, loiter, and transit missions and demonstrated the first successful interaction of a Ghost Fleet Overlord USV with Navy fleet assets. 

The Ghost Fleet Overlord program -- begun in 2018 -- is part of the Navy's drive to include autonomous vessels in its fleet to better expand its reach. The Navy's unmanned vessel approach inclues different classes of ships and missions, including offensive operations and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activity. with reduced risk to crew and legacy vessels.


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