Military Embedded Systems

DARPA & ONR to begin open-water testing on unmanned "Sea Hunter" ship


April 11, 2016

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

DARPA & ONR to begin open-water testing on unmanned "Sea Hunter" ship
Photo by DARPA

PORTLAND, Ore. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will begin open-water testing of the Agency?s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program.

The vessel – christened “Sea Hunter” – represents a new class of unmanned ship for U.S. maritime operations with potential missions that include submarine tracking and countermine activities, officials say.

DARPA will collaborate with ONR to test the capabilities of the vessel and several payloads during open-water testing scheduled to begin this summer off the coast of California after preliminary checkout and movement to San Diego.

The name “Sea Hunter” dates back to DARPA and Navy ship-development programs such as the Sea Shadow prototype vessel developed in the 1980s, DARPA officials say.

Sea Hunter is designed for stability, gives access to a maintenance crew, but will not support a permanent crew. The 130-foot twin-screw trimaran can travel for months at time without anyone board.

ACTUV’s autonomy suite demonstrated - through at-sea testing on a surrogate vessel - that the ship has the ability operate in compliance with maritime laws and conventions for safe navigation including International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).

Engineers designed the ship to operate under sparse remote supervisor control and can also be operated as a remotely piloted vessel. The program could transition to the U.S. Navy pending the results of the open-water testing.

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