U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Autonomous Vessel Sails Through Transit Test, Participates in Exercise Dawn Blitz

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Source:   DoD SCO, https://media.defense.gov/2021/Jan/13/2002564627/-1/-1/0/210112-D-ZZ999-003C.JPG
Source: DoD SCO, https://media.defense.gov/2021/Jan/13/2002564627/-1/-1/0/210112-D-ZZ999-003C.JPG

January 20, 2021 | Originally published by U.S. Department of Defense on January 13, 2021

A Ghost Fleet Overlord unmanned surface vessel (USV), part of a partnership between the DoD’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) and the Navy, recently traveled a distance of more than 4,700 nautical miles, almost entirely autonomously. Afterward, it participated in exercise Dawn Blitz, where it again spent nearly all of its underway time operating autonomously.

“This is a historic milestone for the program and the Navy. It represents what SCO does best—integrate mature technologies to accelerate service priorities and create new capabilities for our Warfighters,” said Jay Dryer, Director of the SCO.

The Ghost Fleet Overlord program is part of an effort to accelerate the Navy’s push to incorporate autonomous vessels within its fleet to better expand the reach of manned vessels. Autonomy includes more than just straight-line passage through large areas of the ocean; it also involves such things as collision avoidance and following the rules of the sea.

The Navy’s efforts to adopt the unmanned vessel concept involve several classes of ships and an array of missions, such as offensive operations and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, with reduced risk to crew and legacy vessels. The Ghost Fleet Overlord program has demonstrated continued maturity in the autonomous USV concept since it stood up in late 2018.

The most recent display of that maturity involved a USV traveling from the Gulf Coast to the coast of California, moving autonomously approximately 97% of the time. While the USV did have a crew onboard, remote mission command and control for the trip was done from a remote location by sailors with Surface Development Squadron One.