Migrants rescued by the frigate Maestrale. Image courtesy Marina Militare.
Hardly a single naval mission area remains that has been untouched by unmanned systems of the air, surface, or undersea variety. Most recently, Italy's navy announced that with the help of surveillance from an unmanned air system, 1,049 African migrants en route to Sicily had been rescued. The ongoing rescue missions are part of Operation "Mare Nostrum"(Our Sea), which has been underway since last fall when over 400 migrants from Eritirea and Syria perished near Italy's coasts. Presumably, the drone the Italians referenced was the ScanEagle, which was initially evaluated for ship-board use in October 2010. Two systems each consisting of 5 fixed-wing aircraft were purchased to be employed by the Maestrale Class Frigate beginning this year. The Italians also recently acquired the S-100 Camcopter, intended for counter-piracy duties in the Indian Ocean.
Well known authors and national security analysts Peter W. Singer and August Cole have together launched their inaugural novel, Ghost Fleet . The book contains all the components one would expect from a high tech future-war thriller: major power conflict, cyber militias, and biotech-enhanced warriors, to name a few highlights. And drones...lots of them. Unmanned naval systems in particular, play key roles throughout the book's action sequences. Some of the unmanned systems are already deployed, some are currently in development, and a few exist only in the authors' minds, but all appear to be technically feasible at some point in the near future. A Littoral Combat Ship features prominently early in the plot. The LCS serves as a mothership for the Fire Scout UAVs and a REMUS AUV which the crew creatively uses as an offensive weapon. An embarked SAFFiR robot helps LCS sailors with damage control during a combat scene. Several platforms in use today are adapted for new m
As discussed in an earlier post , dynamics between unmanned naval systems and the platforms that carry them are changing rapidly to accomodate new technologies and tactics. Arguably, various types of drone motherships have the potential to transform mine countermeasures more than any other warfare area and the evolution in mine-countermeasures tactics towards the mothership-unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) partnership is already underway. One of the first major demonstrations of this concept occurred last summer during 5th Fleet's International Mine Countermeasures Exercise ( IMCMEX ) when a number of UUVs were tested from large amphibious motherships including USS Ponce ((AFSB(I)-15). Essentially, the Navy is moving from dedicated MCM ships such as the Avenger class minesweeper, to a trio of platforms: a Generation I mothership, carrying Generation II platforms (a RHIB specially modified to carry UUVs; seen below), and the UUVs themselves. The Gen I mothership provides th
Researchers at Austria's University of Graz have demonstrated the largest collection of swarming autonomous underwater vehicles with their Collective Cognitive Robots (CoCoRo) project. A total of 41 autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) were assembled for recent swarm testing at the University's Artificial Life Lab . Though funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) with the intention of developing civilian innovations for environmental monitoring and research, CoCoRo has implications for future military unmanned underwater vehicle swarm activity. Under development since 2011, CoCoRo's swarm demonstration consists of three types of robots: Jeff is an agile fish-like robot with various pressure and magnetic sensors for obstacle detection, avoidance, and navigation. The swarm also featured 20 saucer-shaped Lily robots that randomly search for objects while communicating with each other using blue-LED lights. The final r