US Navy Takes Another Successful Step Toward Mine-Hunting Robots

2019/09/1568280939.jpg
Read: 480     15:35     12 September 2019    

By Kyle Mizokami

The U.S. Navy successfully tested a new mine-hunting system that uses autonomous robots to detect, identify, and destroy sea mines. The new system is not only faster than one that uses humans, but safer, too. It allows people to control the robots and stay out of harm’s way.


The head of the Chief of Naval Operations’ mine warfare office, Stephen Olson, says the service tested a new mine warfare package for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), according to Defense News. The frigate-sized LCS ships are designed to work with swappable mission packages supporting missions such as anti-surface warfare, mine-hunting, and anti-submarine warfare. The Mine Countermeasures Module, more than a decade behind schedule, recently passed a key test.

The mine warfare package, as the above video demonstrates, involves fitting an LCS with the ability to launch and recover two of Textron’s Common Unmanned Surface Vehicles, small autonomous boats that Defense News describes as the size of “bass boats.” Once near a suspected minefield, the CUSV deploys the AN/AQS-20 pod. Towed from behind the autonomous boat, the AN/AQS-20 uses sonar to search for suspected mines on the surface of the ocean, suspended from the bottom, or partially buried on the sea floor.

Once it locates a suspected mine, it can then send a picture of the suspicious object to its human controllers on the LCS. If they decide it’s a mine, the CUSV launches a Barracuda mine-killing drone into the water. The Barracuda pops a communications relay buoy and then takes up station next to the mine and awaits orders. Once the humans give the order, the Barracuda destroys the mine with an explosive charge.

Older mine-hunting systems typically involved putting human divers or even marine mammals into the water to check out suspected mines, then emplacing explosives to destroy them at a distance. Placing divers into an environment full of floating bombs just waiting to go off is intrinsically dangerous.

The new system, on the other hand, doesn’t involve anyone going into the water—or the suspected minefield, for that matter. The new system is also much faster, as the CUSV can destroy several mines during a single mission this way.

But despite the strong autonomous robotic element, humans still make the big decisions. The system is only authorized to autonomously detect mines, not destroy them. The man or woman in the loop still has final authority on whether anything is blown up. That authority will likely be granted more often than ever, with minefields cleared and shipping channels reopened with robotic efficiency.

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US Navy Takes Another Successful Step Toward Mine-Hunting Robots

2019/09/1568280939.jpg
Read: 481     15:35     12 September 2019    

By Kyle Mizokami

The U.S. Navy successfully tested a new mine-hunting system that uses autonomous robots to detect, identify, and destroy sea mines. The new system is not only faster than one that uses humans, but safer, too. It allows people to control the robots and stay out of harm’s way.


The head of the Chief of Naval Operations’ mine warfare office, Stephen Olson, says the service tested a new mine warfare package for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), according to Defense News. The frigate-sized LCS ships are designed to work with swappable mission packages supporting missions such as anti-surface warfare, mine-hunting, and anti-submarine warfare. The Mine Countermeasures Module, more than a decade behind schedule, recently passed a key test.

The mine warfare package, as the above video demonstrates, involves fitting an LCS with the ability to launch and recover two of Textron’s Common Unmanned Surface Vehicles, small autonomous boats that Defense News describes as the size of “bass boats.” Once near a suspected minefield, the CUSV deploys the AN/AQS-20 pod. Towed from behind the autonomous boat, the AN/AQS-20 uses sonar to search for suspected mines on the surface of the ocean, suspended from the bottom, or partially buried on the sea floor.

Once it locates a suspected mine, it can then send a picture of the suspicious object to its human controllers on the LCS. If they decide it’s a mine, the CUSV launches a Barracuda mine-killing drone into the water. The Barracuda pops a communications relay buoy and then takes up station next to the mine and awaits orders. Once the humans give the order, the Barracuda destroys the mine with an explosive charge.

Older mine-hunting systems typically involved putting human divers or even marine mammals into the water to check out suspected mines, then emplacing explosives to destroy them at a distance. Placing divers into an environment full of floating bombs just waiting to go off is intrinsically dangerous.

The new system, on the other hand, doesn’t involve anyone going into the water—or the suspected minefield, for that matter. The new system is also much faster, as the CUSV can destroy several mines during a single mission this way.

But despite the strong autonomous robotic element, humans still make the big decisions. The system is only authorized to autonomously detect mines, not destroy them. The man or woman in the loop still has final authority on whether anything is blown up. That authority will likely be granted more often than ever, with minefields cleared and shipping channels reopened with robotic efficiency.

popularmechanics



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