Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Missions for Unmanned Undersea Vehicles

Cover: A Survey of Missions for Unmanned Undersea Vehicles A Survey of Missions for Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (Robert W. Button, John Kamp, Thomas B. Curtin, James Dryde, RAND, 2009) provides a surprisingly detailed and open account of the types of robot submarines the US military do, and might, use. The book suffers from some excess of military acronyms, but is readable by the enthusiast, as well as the specialist. The section on gliders, which can travel thousands of kilometers and remain underwater for months, running on a small battery, should be of particualr interest. A 200 Kbyte Summary and the full 3 Mbyte Full document are available for download for free (I read the paperback edition which can be purchased from RAND).


  1. Introduction
  2. UUV Missions
  3. UUV Subsystems and Technologies
  4. Evaluation of UUV Missions
  5. Summary and Recommendations
  • Appendix A: UUV Market Survey
  • Appendix B: Models Used in This Analysis and Their Implications

The research described in this report was sponsored by the U.S. Navy and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community. ...

From: A Survey of Missions for Unmanned Undersea Vehicles. Robert W. Button, John Kamp, Thomas B. Curtin, James Dryde, RAND, 2009

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Robots at war

"Wired for war : the robotics revolution" (Singer, P. W. 2009) is a very readable book about the use of robots in modern warfare. It suffer from having a very US centric view of the field and providing a few too many anecdotes. But it is an easy read for someone needing an overview.

Singer starts with anecdotes about the use of bomb disposal robots in Iraq. He describes the origins and different development philosophies of the two major companies supplying the US defence department. Having attended a seminar by Professor Rodney Brooks, an Australian from Adelaide and one of the founders of iRobot, I can see that Singer's analysis is insightful.

What is missing is the discussion of the development of robotics outside the USA and the role of the scientific research community. As an example, the Aerosonde UAV, which is now being marketed to the military, was developed in Melbourne, (Australia), for taking meteorological measurements (thus the name "Aero-sonde". The aircraft was later adapted for other remote sensing and military applications.

Aerosonde pioneered small long endurance autonomous UAVs (having flow across the North Atlantic). Previously it was assumed that UAVs small enough for a person to lift would only have a range of a few hours.

One problem with innovation is having something too different from the competition. Aerosonde faced this with their early models which were controlled from an ordinary laptop computer. This removed the need for specialised control units. But rather than being seen as an advantage, this counted as a disadvantage in the logic of military procurement. With the Aerosonde Mark 4.7, released in March, there has been effort to provide compatibility with military UAV systems, such as NATO STANAG 4586 standards for UAV ground stations (also see the STANAG-4586 LinkedIn Group).

Aerosonde also pioneered the idea of UAVs being provided as a service, rather than individual aircraft purchased by the customer. This idea is yet to take off with UAV customers, but with widespread use, it appears an idea who's time has come. This concept is not discussed in Singer's book.

Earlier in the year the Australian and US Defence Departments announced the Multi Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge (MAGIC 2010). This is a competition researchers to build a fleet of cooperating autonomous ground vehicle systems (robots) for military and civilian emergency use. These will be tested in Australia in November 2010.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Robot Sub Protects Pope

REMUS 100 AUV autonomous underwater vehicleAccording to a media report 'Operation Testament' to protect the Pope at the recent Sydney World Youth Day included a miniature robot submarine to check for underwater bombs in Sydney harbour.
A torpedo-shaped autonomous underwater vehicle was used to scan the base of Sydney Harbour at Barangaroo prior to the Pope’s arrival in July. Dubbed ‘Operation Testament’, approximately nine kilometres of the sea floor was surveyed in six passes using a Remus 100 AUV. ...

From: 'Operation Testament' protects the Pope, Ry Crozier , ItNEWS, 20 August 2008 12:34PM

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