Northrop Grumman conducts advanced unmanned systems teaming

September 5, 2016 - via IHS Jane's International Defence Review

Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider provided the USV element of the demonstration. Source: Liquid Robotics

Northrop Grumman has demonstrated a new autonomy framework that enables multiple unrelated unmanned systems to communicate and collaborate on a mission. "Data collected from multiple sensors arrayed across autonomous undersea, surface, and air vehicles were fused autonomously to develop a real-time tracking solution that guided a surrogate autonomous air vehicle to engage a contact for live drop of a replica torpedo, for the first time," according to a statement from Northrop Grumman.


The demonstration took place during the cross-domain autonomous system collaboration anti-submarine warfare (ASW) detect-to-engage exercise, held during the Annual Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) at Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport, Rhode Island. "The real objective was to demonstrate this cross domain multi-vehicle autonomous operation," Gene Cumm, director, undersea warfare systems for Northrop Grumman told IHS Jane's . "You can really improve mission effectivity by allowing multiple unmanned assets to collaborate," he added.

During the three-day demonstration held in August, Northrop Grumman's autonomy framework connected a Kongsberg REMUS 600 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), two Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider unmanned surface vehicles (USV), and a manned helicopter representing a Northrop Grumman Fire Scout vertical take-off and landing tactical unmanned air vehicle (VTUAV).


The REMUS 600 UUV communicated with the USV via an acoustic system. (US Navy)

Technologies demonstrated during the event included: An Advanced Mission Management and Control System (AMMCS); Wave Gliders with acoustic sensors and RF gateway; REMUS with a three dimensional bathymetric sensor; a Compact Rapid Attack Weapon (CRAW) deployed from the Fire Scout demonstrator; and a Maritime Open Autonomy Architecture 

The unmanned platforms were all linked back to a command centre where Northrop Grumman and US Navy personnel were able to monitor the activities, Cumm said.

The AUV and USV were connected using acoustic communications. The USV and the surrogate UAV were connected using radio frequency (RF) communications. "It was really the open architecture nature of the autonomy framework that allowed us to rapidly integrate in these existing [unmanned] systems that were never designed to be integrated into a framework like this," Cumm said.



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Author:Geoff Fein