Military Embedded Systems

Unmanned-ship design project from DARPA moves into Phase 2


August 25, 2022

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Unmanned-ship design project from DARPA moves into Phase 2
Concept design for NOMARS Defiant unmanned ship courtesy DARPA.

ARLINGTON, Va. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is moving into Phase 2 of its No Manning Required Ship (NOMARS) program, which seeks to build and demonstrate a revolutionary new medium unmanned surface vessel (MUSV) that can go to sea and perform missions with unprecedented reliability and availability, while carrying a significant payload. The agency selected Serco Inc.’s design to move forward at the conclusion of Phase 1.

The NOMARS project held firmly to the requirement that there will never be a human on board the vessel while it is at sea – including during underway replenishment (UNREP) events, an approach DARPA maintained would eliminate all constraints and requirements associated with humans and open up the design space to novel ship configurations and capabilities that could never be considered for crewed vessels. NOMARS is also pushing the boundaries on ship reliability: No crew on board for maintenance means that such a ship requires novel approaches for power generation, propulsion, machinery lineup, and control schemes to ensure continuous functionality throughout a long mission in any weather, temperature, and sea state.

For its part, Serco developed and used a new tool to create a set of ship designs ranging from 170-270 metric tons, then refined those into a single 210-metric ton MUSV-class ship for the preliminary design review, which the company called Defiant. Under the Phase 2 work, Serco will finalize ship design, build the ship -- the first of its kind -- and conduct rigorous testing before taking it to sea for a three-month demonstration event.

Serco's team also includes Beier Integrated Systems, Caterpillar, DRS Naval Power Systems, ICE FLOE (dba Nichols Brothers Boat Builders), Metron, Serco Inc. (div Maritime Engineering Operations), Submergence Group, and Thrustmaster of Texas. 

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U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

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Arlington, VA 22203-2114

Serco, Inc.

12930 Worldgate Drive Suite 6000
Herndon, VA 20170