MANAMA, Bahrain — U.S. Fifth Fleet Task Force 59 is conducting Digital Horizon, an unmanned systems demonstration featuring a flotilla of different unmanned surface vessels to help build maritime awareness.
Digital Horizon is one of the ways Task Force 59 is moving forward with its goal of establishing an international fleet of 100 unmanned systems by next summer.
While several platforms are currently deployed operationally by TF 59, Digital Horizon has brought 10 new systems to Bahrain to work together to use their unique sensors and capabilities to share data with the robotic operations center ( ROC) of TF 59’s land-based network using a mesh network communication. At the ROC, information is processed and analyzed using artificial intelligence and machine learning to sift through big data and determine what is normal activity and what is extraordinary so that abnormal contacts can be investigated further.
Unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) participating in Digital Horizon include Elbit Systems’ Seagull; Exail Drix; L3Harris Arabian Fox and MAST-13; advanced marine robotics WAM-V; the MANTAS T-38 and Devil Ray T-12 from MARTAC; Ocean Aero TRITON; Open Ocean Robotics Data Xplorer; Saildrone Explorer; X3 seats; and SeaTrac SP-48. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) also participate in Digital Horizon, including two vertical take-off and landing systems, Aerovel’s Flexrotor and Shield AI’s V-BAT, as well as Easy Aerial’s tethered drone, which is transported in a container on top of one of the USVs.
Silvus Technologies is providing the line-of-sight radio communications system and Accenture Federal Services and Big Bear AI are providing data integration and artificial intelligence systems for the exercise. An Ocius USV also operates off Western Australia and connects to the network.
Each of the various participating platforms offers unique specialized abilities and attributes. All carried basic sensors such as cameras and AIS transponders. Some had payloads of more sophisticated sensors like radar and weather. Some are relatively large and fast, while others are small but able to stay at sea for long periods of time. Some could deploy small USVs or small aerial surveillance drones, and one could submerge and operate underwater. USVs had various means of power and propulsion, including diesel engines, solar panels and sails.
The companies that brought their systems to the exercise responded to a call for industry partners to share their technology and help TF 59 learn how to build effective networks and evaluate commercially available systems that can perform well. in the harsh offshore environment of the Fifth Fleet Area of Operations. A selection committee made up of experts from different disciplines evaluated the dozens of candidate systems and technologies against a set of criteria to select the companies that will participate in Digital Horizon.
For Digital Horizon, Capt. Michael Brasseur, commander of Task Force 59, said TF 59 and industry partners are taking a methodical approach. “For the purposes of our exercise, we are only in the early stages of setting up our communications and network. Then we will start daytime operations and then we will go 24/7. What we are trying to do is not easy to accomplish with these different platforms and technologies, especially here in the difficult operating environment of the Persian Gulf.
While reporters could see USVs on the pier, placed in the water and operating at sea, Brasseur said the exercise would later use the UAVs, with information from each of the platforms “all integrated on a single window”. at the ROC.
“We will run a series of vignettes that emulate real-world operations in this region to test how these systems work and how data is integrated,” Brasseur said. “We’ve been working on our communications and making sure we can receive and present live video and radar feeds, and making sure the data feed can be integrated into the system where we can take advantage of the machine learning and AI to move forward with the exercise. Scenarios and challenges will become more complex as the exercise progresses. We will better understand the limitations of sensors and communications, and the power of machine learning and AI to make sense of all data. »
TF 59 is already deploying USVs from operational hubs in Bahrain and Aqaba, Jordan, with the goal of having 100 platforms operational by summer 2023. According to Brasseur, achieving this goal will be achieved by including partner countries in the region with a shared interest in creating the most comprehensive understanding of the maritime environment. Digital Horizon will outline how best to use available technology to achieve this goal.
“The pace of innovation is incredible,” Brasseur said. “We are challenging our industry partners in one of the toughest operating environments, and they are responding quickly with enhanced capabilities.”
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