Unmanned U.S. frigates to stalk submarines (w/ Video)

Feb 04, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
U.S. Navy ship
U.S. Navy combat ship Freedom (LCS 1).

(PhysOrg.com) -- In the U.S. the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is planning to introduce unmanned frigates for long missions shadowing diesel-electric submarines.

The vessels, dubbed Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessels or ACTUVs, are designed to be unmanned, with only intermittent communication from operators on shore or on a ship, and to require no maintenance for months. They will also obey navigational rules and be able to avoid collisions at sea.

The three main objectives of the program are to build an “X-ship” that operates without anyone stepping aboard at any point in its operating cycle, secondly to demonstrate the technical viability of the system under “sparse remote supervisory control”, and thirdly to demonstrate the anti-submarine capability of the vessel and its “novel suite of sensors”. The ACTUV is unlike other unmanned vessels in that it is designed for global, independent deployment for months at a time.

Proponents claim crewless vessels would save the U.S. Navy money and free the expensive crewed ships from the routine work of continuously cruising the oceans shadowing submarines. The unmanned frigates would locate a by “pinging’ with active sonar to detect the submarine’s echoes, which means those on the submarine would know they have been detected. While nuclear submarines may be fast enough to escape the stalking frigate, fast and quiet diesel-electric submarines would not.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Other unmanned vessels are already in use, with Israel deploying Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs), mainly for surveillance purposes, and the U.S. Navy deploying unmanned drones from its submarines.

is the research and development section of the U.S. Department of Defense, which is charged with the job of maintaining the U.S. military’s technological superiority and avoiding technological surprises that could threaten the nation’s security. It will host an unclassified “Industry Day” conference on the ACTUV program at the Liberty Conference Center in Arlington, Virginia on February 16 to discuss the program and address any questions.

Explore further: Professors object to FAA restrictions on drone use

More information: FBO announcement (pdf)

Related Stories

Submersibles discover top-secret Japanese submarines

Nov 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Two World War II Japanese submarines, designed with revolutionary technology to attack the U.S. mainland, have been discovered off the Hawaiian coast of Oʻahu. They are the I-14, which ...

Proxy Aviation Systems Unveils SkyWatcher

Jun 28, 2005

Proxy Aviation Systems recently unveiled SkyWatcher, a long endurance, low and medium altitude, multi-payload unmanned aircraft system at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International's (AUVSI) demonstration ...

Go Under Water by Submarine Bicycle

Jul 30, 2004

A water-proof multipurpose submarine apparatus with bicycle-like principle of moving is created by specialists from the St. Petersburg State Marine Technical University. It is sized for two people that can operate it without pr ...

Robotic technology lowers military risks

Jun 07, 2006

With suicide bombing and improvised explosive devices escalating violence in Iraq, engineers are working to advance robotic technology to counter these deadly military problems.

Recommended for you

Hoverbike drone project for air transport takes off

Jul 24, 2014

What happens when you cross a helicopter with a motorbike? The crew at Malloy Aeronautics has been focused on a viable answer and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support its Hoverbike project, "The ...

Student develops filter for clean water around the world

Jul 23, 2014

Roughly 780 million people around the world have no access to clean drinking water. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.4 million people die from water-related diseases every year. ETH student Jeremy Nussbaumer ...

User comments : 21

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

googleplex
4.7 / 5 (6) Feb 04, 2010
I would be more impressed by a zero maintenance power plant and drive train than the autonomous computer.
Presumably they would have to heli in maintenance crews. If something did break.
Autonommous merchant ships make even more sense. Impossible to highjack as there are no controls!
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (2) Feb 04, 2010
Autonommous merchant ships make even more sense. Impossible to highjack as there are no controls!

Until you find a pirate with a knack for computer science, or a tugboat mountable EMP generator.
Nik_2213
not rated yet Feb 04, 2010
I can just see the prototype featuring in next 'James Bond' movie as the missing McGuffin-- Hijacked, of course !!
deatopmg
2 / 5 (8) Feb 04, 2010
"Unmanned U.S. frigates to stalk submarines (w/ Video)"

FRIGATE?

–noun
1. a fast naval vessel of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, generally having a lofty ship rig and heavily armed on one or two decks.
2. any of various types of modern naval vessels ranging in size from a destroyer escort to a cruiser, frequently armed with guided missiles and used for aircraft carrier escort duty, shore bombardment, and miscellaneous combat functions.
Use frigate in a Sentence
See images of frigate
Search frigate on the Web
Origin:
1575–85; < MF frégate < It fregata, Sicilian fragata (> Sp, Catalan, Pg); of obscure orig.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.

Apparently Lin Edwards knows little about navel vessels or just wanted to come up with a catchy, but misleading, headline.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 04, 2010
Apparently Lin Edwards knows little about navel vessels or just wanted to come up with a catchy, but misleading, headline.
Uhm, they are frigates both by the definition you list (see 2.) and by the Naval code of ship classification.
NotAsleep
5 / 5 (2) Feb 04, 2010
Agreed, it's definitely a frigate. These are typically used as platforms for specialized devices as the definition above implies.
PMende
3.5 / 5 (4) Feb 04, 2010
Until you find a pirate with a knack for computer science, or a tugboat mountable EMP generator.

Right, because the average pirate will have access to these things.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2010
Well, the average AlKaida member had access to Drone footage.

Don't expect something like this to be hack-proof. Nothing is.
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (2) Feb 04, 2010
Right, because the average pirate will have access to these things.


I'm sure when they developed gunpowder the same was said of cannonry.
fixer
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 04, 2010
What a ridiculous idea.
Pinging a submarine with a robot.
I expect said submariners would stick a torpedo into it or lay a couple of mines in it's path.
Is this news a serious item of science?
I think not!
designmemetic
1 / 5 (2) Feb 04, 2010
maybe the real selling point is it won't have any real people who might get in the way by insisting on human rights or following the military code of law. That seems to cause the politicians more problems than paying for manpower.
Gannet
1 / 5 (1) Feb 05, 2010
I think the Navy should consider using the train dolphins similar to ones used for finding buried mines for shadowing submarines.
dk2009
not rated yet Feb 06, 2010
I think the Navy should consider using the train dolphins similar to ones used for finding buried mines for shadowing submarines.

I don't think a dolphin could chase a submarine for hours or days on end, and eat, and rest.
OZGuy
1 / 5 (2) Feb 07, 2010
If it's unmanned then what's to stop the sub surfacing and the crew taking control of it?

Additionally if someone needs a vessel to perform a terrorist act then board one of these and steer it into an oil tanker. The U.S.A would get the blame...
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Feb 07, 2010
If it's unmanned then what's to stop the sub surfacing and the crew taking control of it?
If it's unmanned, what makes you think there are accessible controls?
OZGuy
1 / 5 (1) Feb 07, 2010
If it's unmanned then what's to stop the sub surfacing and the crew taking control of it?

Additionally if someone needs a vessel to perform a terrorist act then board one of these and steer it into an oil tanker. The U.S.A would get the blame...
yyz
not rated yet Feb 07, 2010
I would think some sort of protection system for the ship would be employed to prevent it from being disabled. Deck mounted weapons as shown in the video seems like an obvious, low-tech step.
OZGuy
5 / 5 (1) Feb 07, 2010
If it's unmanned, what makes you think there are accessible controls?


Anything anyone builds can be tampered with, especially given time. At a minimum the vessel has a rudder and that can be manipulated.

Suchros
not rated yet Feb 07, 2010
At a minimum the vessel has a rudder and that can be manipulated.

If you'd follow marine tech you'd know there will necessarily be no rudder-more manouverable that way. But anyhow, usage of these should only be during near combat-situation otherwise one'd be captured and its vulnerabilities taken advantage of pretty soon. Better get that self-destruct thing inside-that inflatable thing could sink it just enough for it to be able to mimic a mine even.
fixer
1 / 5 (1) Feb 07, 2010
I can see the headlines,
Unmanned American ship sinks tourist sub, kills occupants.
Last time I looked it wasn't illegal to own or operate a sub in international waters.
Oil companies, Researchers and even treasure hunters use subs and they are not answerable to the Yanks.
Even just pinging a sub for hours on end would be regarded as an act of agression for a foreign power who would be quite justified in removing the nuisance.
Sancho
not rated yet Feb 08, 2010
Ships in low visibility conditions sometimes collide even though manned. Small boats are occasionally run down by fast moving freighters despite lookouts. Hopefully, these drone ships will be unmarked so no one will know whom to blame when a frigate plows into a supertanker one foggy night off the California coast.