SITIS Archives - Topic Details
Program:  SBIR
Topic Num:  N07-096 (Navy)
Title:  Autonomous, Cooperative Behavior Amongst Unmanned Surface Vehicles
Research & Technical Areas:  Ground/Sea Vehicles

Acquisition Program:  PMS501-Littoral Combat Ship, ACAT I
 RESTRICTION ON PERFORMANCE BY FOREIGN NATIONALS: This topic is “ITAR Restricted”. The information and materials provided pursuant to or resulting from this topic are restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which control the export of defense-related material and services, including the export of sensitive technical data. Foreign nationals may perform work under an award resulting from this topic only if they hold the “Permanent Resident Card”, or are designated as “Protected Individuals” as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3). If a proposal for this topic contains participation by a foreign national who is not in one of the above two categories, the proposal may be rejected.
  Objective:  Develop an autonomous control system that implements cooperative behavior amongst several Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs).
  Description:  Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) are being considered by the US Navy for various missions. The ability of several USVs to carry out a mission, with individual USVs capable of autonomously replanning their mission based on the sensor inputs and situational awareness of the other USVs, would be of great value because this would result in reduced operator workload. Inclusion of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the system would further enhance mission capability. For the purposes of this topic, the USVs should be equipped with: 1) sensors for situational awareness, and monitoring of their mechanical systems, 2) the USVs should be equipped with a sensor or sensors that will allow them to search an operator-defined region and 3) the USVs should be equipped with additional sensors that will provide for inspection of an object of interest when it is detected. For this topic, the emphasis should be on integration of relatively inexpensive, off-the-shelf sensors and vehicles to demonstrate proof-of-concept of autonomous cooperative behavior amongst several USVs. A description of one possible approach to cooperating unmanned vehicles is found in Reference 2. This topic seeks a capability in which the USVs can 1) autonomously and cooperatively search an operator-defined area, 2) have one USV break away from the search and inspect an object or craft of interest once it is located and 3) the remaining USVs continue the search, readjusting their search pattern to compensate for the loss of one USV from the group. Additionally, the group of USVs should be able to autonomously reconfigure their search pattern if one USV experiences a mechanical breakdown. In addition to the autonomous control of the USVs, particular attention should be paid to the challenges of the marine environment, the challenges of communication between the USVs and the human interface.

  PHASE I: Develop a design concept for an automated control system that will provide for cooperative behavior, as described above, amongst a group of Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs).
  PHASE II: Fabricate one prototype system designed in Phase I and install on a small boat. Through in-water testing, validate the properties of the system, in response to inputs from other, simulated Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs).

  PHASE III: Demonstrate prototype system fabricated in Phase II on more than one Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV). Provide at-sea demonstration of ability of prototype system to provide autonomous cooperative behavior amongst several USVs. Provide detailed drawings and specifications. PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/

  DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: Small boat-builders and machinery automation industries will benefit from this topic. Commercial applications include use on oceanographic survey vessels, off-shore oil exploration and salvage ships.

  References:  1. "SPARTAN Unmanned Surface Vehicle Extends the USW Battlespace-SPARTAN Concept", Naval Forces, Special Issue 2001, p. 18. 2. D. Scheidt et al., “Cooperating Unmanned Vehicles”, IEEE, July 2005.

Keywords:  Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV); Autonomy, Cooperative Behavior

Additional Information, Corrections, References, etc:
Ref #2: Available online to IEEE members.
Ref #2: Available online to IEEE members.

Questions and Answers:
Q: 1. How much emphasis should be put on algorithms and how much emphasis should be put on hardware design and implementation throughout Phase I and Phase II?

2. Can we assume that the object or craft to be inspected by USV stays still?

3. Does Phase I require a conceptual design for hardware systems (such as sensors, vehicles, network, etc.)?

4. Does a human operator need to be included in the control loop?

5. Is there any requirement on the total number of USVs in the system?

6. For Phase I proof-of-concept, is the demonstration required to be on water (i.e., the vehicles have to move on water)?
A: 1. Overall, the emphasis of this project is on algorithms. As it progresses to Phase 2, there will have to be more emphasis on hardware.

2. Both a moving object and a stationary would be of interest. If you are considering a scenario in which the object stays still that is fine.

3. The algorithms are more important in Phase 1 but certainly the concept design for hardware would help convince us that you can execute Phase 2.

4. Yes, we want a human to be able to override the autonomous system if necessary.

5. No requirement, but think in terms of 3-10.

6. Phase 1 does not need to be in the water and I would consider it very ambitious if a Phase 1 "got wet". You'd probably want to be in the water by the end of Phase 2 although this could be with scale model USVs or other inexpensive surrogates.
Q: 1. What aspects of this SBIR are considered to be ITAR controlled?

2. If the proposed algorithms are based on information published in the public domain, are they considered ITAR controlled?
A: The ITAR issues may arise if the technology being developed in the SBIR is installed on a Gov't furnished USV. Not sure if this is your plan or not and if so presumably it would not occur until Phase 2. This ITAR issue can be avoided by using a USV and control system that you furnish.
Q: 1. In what sea state should our prototype USV be designed to operate?
2. Is there a minimum/maximum speed at which our prototype USV should be designed to operate?
3. Where do you anticipate holding the sea demonstration for Phase 2?
4. Is there any guidance the typical number of collaborating USVs?
A: 1. For the purposes of experimnents associated with this SBIR project, the USV does not need to be able to operate in rough water, as long as it can handle the sea state at the test site. In actual operation with the Fleet, the USVs will need to be able to operate in SS4, but again for this project that is not necessary.

2. There are no set requirements of this nature. I'd say that you would like to be able to do a minimum of 10 kts and a max of 20-30 kts so that the timeframes that you are testing are reasonable.

3. Location TBD and if the contractor has a site I am open to discussing that.

4. As to number of USVs, maybe 3-10, depending on what you want to demonstrate.
Q: 1. Can we assume GPS is available?
2. Does the size of the craft matter in Phase II?
3. Can modified R/C model craft be used?
A: 1. Yes
2. No
3. Yes
Q: 1. How much emphasis should be put on algorithms and how much emphasis should be put on hardware design and implementation throughout Phase I and Phase II?

2. Can we assume that the object or craft to be inspected by USV stays still?

3. Does Phase I require a conceptual design for hardware systems (such as sensors, vehicles, network, etc.)?

4. Does a human operator need to be included in the control loop?

5. Is there any requirement on the total number of USVs in the system?

6. For Phase I proof-of-concept, is the demonstration required to be on water (i.e., the vehicles have to move on water)?
A: 1. Overall, the emphasis of this project is on algorithms. As it progresses to Phase 2, there will have to be more emphasis on hardware.

2. Both a moving object and a stationary would be of interest. If you are considering a scenario in which the object stays still that is fine.

3. The algorithms are more important in Phase 1 but certainly the concept design for hardware would help convince us that you can execute Phase 2.

4. Yes, we want a human to be able to override the autonomous system if necessary.

5. No requirement, but think in terms of 3-10.

6. Phase 1 does not need to be in the water and I would consider it very ambitious if a Phase 1 "got wet". You'd probably want to be in the water by the end of Phase 2 although this could be with scale model USVs or other inexpensive surrogates.
Q: 1. What aspects of this SBIR are considered to be ITAR controlled?

2. If the proposed algorithms are based on information published in the public domain, are they considered ITAR controlled?
A: The ITAR issues may arise if the technology being developed in the SBIR is installed on a Gov't furnished USV. Not sure if this is your plan or not and if so presumably it would not occur until Phase 2. This ITAR issue can be avoided by using a USV and control system that you furnish.
Q: 1. In what sea state should our prototype USV be designed to operate?
2. Is there a minimum/maximum speed at which our prototype USV should be designed to operate?
3. Where do you anticipate holding the sea demonstration for Phase 2?
4. Is there any guidance the typical number of collaborating USVs?
A: 1. For the purposes of experimnents associated with this SBIR project, the USV does not need to be able to operate in rough water, as long as it can handle the sea state at the test site. In actual operation with the Fleet, the USVs will need to be able to operate in SS4, but again for this project that is not necessary.

2. There are no set requirements of this nature. I'd say that you would like to be able to do a minimum of 10 kts and a max of 20-30 kts so that the timeframes that you are testing are reasonable.

3. Location TBD and if the contractor has a site I am open to discussing that.

4. As to number of USVs, maybe 3-10, depending on what you want to demonstrate.
Q: 1. Can we assume GPS is available?
2. Does the size of the craft matter in Phase II?
3. Can modified R/C model craft be used?
A: 1. Yes
2. No
3. Yes

Record: of