There is an interesting bit of technology here, with implications for Maritime Domain Awareness.
The Wave Glider began its mission on November 27, 2015 in the South Pacific, where it helped the UK FCO protect the Pitcairn Island Marine Sanctuary against illegal fishing activities. After successfully completing its mission, the Wave Glider was remotely piloted more than 2,808 nautical miles (5200 km) — through strong equatorial currents, doldrums, and challenging sea states — back to port in Hawaii. Along the way, it collected 9,516 measurements of meteorological, oceanographic, and marine biodiversity data over expanses rarely traveled. This data was recently used to support the worldwide Fishackathon, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to promote innovative ways to stop illegal and unregulated fishing. Altogether, the Wave Glider was continuously at sea, untouched, for 213 days while traveling a total of 7,205 nautical miles (13,344 km).
There is more about the Pitcairn Island mission here, but its potential is not limited to fisheries. Check out the segment of the video below beginning at 4m24s to 5m20s.
DefenseNews is reporting the Israeli Navy is taking seriously the potential use of the same types of smuggling craft the Coast Guard has been dealing with to “transport more than just narcotics, [but] the movement of cash, weapons, violent extremists or, at the darkest of the spectrum, weapons of mass destruction.”
DefenseNews reports the Israeli company Elbit has been working on developing an unmanned surface vessel system, and they have gone beyond simply patrolling the surface and employing remotely controlled machine guns. They are attempting to use it for Anti-Submarine Warfare and mine countermeasures.
If you compare the vessel in the video and the one in the photo above, it is apparent that the equipment has been changed and that the craft probably could not carry both the sonar sensor and the light weight torpedoes, but it is possible multiple units might operate in groups.
Using small vessels for ASW and MCM has a long history, although not always particularly successful. As ASW assets they do offer the advantage that they are too small to be good targets for a submarine’s torpedoes. On the other hand their ability to support sensors and weapons is severely limited, and the crews’ limited ability to deal with adverse weather has always been problematic. Making them unmanned will at least help with that.
It now seems obvious that Unmanned Systems (air and possibly surface and subsurface) will play a part in the Coast Guard’s future, but the service has been, perhaps understandably hesitant to commit to any particular system.
Because of the variety of proprietary systems, integrating the control systems into the organization of the controlling unit, particularly ships and aircraft, and then integrating the resulting information into a common operating picture has been problematic.
Eaglespeak reports, it looks like DOD, through the Office of Naval Research, is moving in the direction of a platform agnostic software application that will permit common hardware to control different unmanned system.
This might permit Coast Guard units which commonly control small unmanned aicraft (sUAS) to be quickly adapted to
Control a much more capable UAS.
Hunt for mines using unmanned surface (USV) or subsurface (UUV) systems.
Control optionally manned surface craft to search for smugglers or enhance asset protection.
Control UUVs towing acoustic arrays, searching for submarines.
Direct a USV equipped with AIS, lights, and signals into position to serve as a temporary aid-to-navigation.