The Unmanned Ship “Sea Hunter” Passes First Sea Trials

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Defense contractor Leidos announced Monday that it has finished initial trials of the Sea Hunter “highly autonomous” demonstrator surface craft.  The U.S. Navy intends this outfit for an anti-submarine warfare mission.

Still, the ship’s autonomy suite (its self-navigating computer system) has not yet been formally tested.

However, Leidos says that the fiberglass vessel did better than required on all performance benchmarks for speed, maneuverability, stability, sea-keeping, acceleration/deceleration, and fuel consumption, as well as establishing confidence in mechanical system reliability in an open-ocean environment.  Sea Hunter’s 130-foot trimaran hull is designed for a maximum speed of 27 knots and operations in conditions up to sea state five.

There are plans to conduct missions of up to 70 days long without resupply, and to carry out tasks that may be risky for human sailors to conduct – at a very economical price per unit.

Scott Littlefield, DARPA program manager said that although ACTUV will sail unmanned, its story is entirely about people.

Following the successful testing, the next round of trials will focus on the small ship’s sensors, autonomous features, its ability to comply with COLREGS on its own and Navy tests related to war-fighting applications.  All testing is being carried out in San Diego, the home of the Fifth Fleet.

Leidos says that while the vessel has been operating in a manned configuration so far, later tests will be done without a human pilot on board.  As presently equipped (as of her christening in April), Sea Hunter cannot yet perceive vessel classes as defined in the Rules of the Road – for example, sailboats or vessels engaged in fishing.

DARPA and Leidos say that this is within technological reach and that it is something they plan to examine for the ship’s future development.

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Source: Leidos Investor Relations

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