Forbes brings us a reality check on the future of Unmanned Surface and Subsurface systems, including considerations that apply to the Coast Guard as well as the DOD.
At sea, robots certainly offer the potential for lots of new and exciting capabilities. But that will mean nothing, if, in the race to chase new capabilities, the Pentagon overlooks the harsh operational realities facing any brave robot sent out to cruise our big and increasingly contested oceans all alone.
This is probably less of a problem for the Coast Guard, because as a very conservative and tight fisted organization, it is less inclined to overreach, and tends to allow other services to go through the development process before jumping in. We really have a very small R&D budget.
There is a lot of information in the article about the successes and failures (that we don’t hear so much abour) of the Saildrone program. A program the author holds in high regard.
As the principle support organization for buoys, our own and NOAA’s, perhaps the Coast Guard has experience that the Navy might benefit from.
I do have one question. If the Navy has engines that can run a Large Unmanned Surface Vessel for months without anyone on watch and without maintenance, why haven’t they put them on manned vessels?
Perhaps a second question. I was surprised to see that vandalism was such a problem for our buoys. If we have warships with no one on board, what is to stop the many bored Chinese fisherman from vandalizing our unmanned warships?
Nice article – Thanks much
I was aware of some of the buoy problems by seeing the number of “No Reports/Data” when I have been looking for specific information – I suspect that some of the problems are budget – both NOAA and the Coast Guard have been pinched for many years
Keep up the good work!!
Concerning your questions, yes I have pondered similar too.
Many who comment on sites like this seem to think ‘unmanned’ is a route to cheap and small so plentiful systems. Having worked on high end systems in controlled environments I know smaller systems out in the real world will be dumb and vulnerable, and still require a ‘man’, probably just as many ‘men’ as now.