Identifying Applications of Autonomy Applicable to Naval Activities / (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy) / (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy)

Posted on May 11, 2018 | Completed on March 1, 2017 | By: Edward Hall

What are some examples of applications of autonomy in the commercial sector that might be good candidates for implementation/deployment in naval enterprises?


The Defense Systems Information Analysis Center (DSIAC) received a technical inquiry requesting examples of applications of autonomy in the commercial sector relevant to the naval enterprise. DSIAC worked with subject matter experts from the West Virginia University Innovation Corporation to compile a list of technologies that fit the inquirer’s request. The research was compiled and sent to the inquirer.


1.0 Introduction

The Defense Systems Information Analysis Center (DSIAC) reviewed the request and assigned the inquiry to a subject matter expert (SME) at the West Virginia University Innovation Corporation (WVUIC). The SME researched examples of applications of autonomy in the commercial sector relevant to naval enterprises and compiled a list of technologies. The technologies fall under logistics, medicine, and data.


2.0 Logistics

2.1 Magazino:  Toru

Toru is an autonomous warehouse robot that can identify and grasp individual objects (books). Toru was developed by Munich-based start-up Magazino GmbH, which is partly owned by Siemens.

  • Excerpt from “Meet Toru the Tireless Warehouse Worker” by Seimens [1]:

Toru is, in essence, a picture of the future of warehouse logistics. ‘We’re taking a completely different approach to those used in traditional automation solutions,’ says [Nikolas] Engelhard. To date, automated warehouse systems have only been able to move entire boxes or pallets; but the retrieval of individual items has always been done by human beings. This is not the case with Toru, however. Toru has a ‘brain’ — an industrial computer, whose software consists of large numbers of standardized and specially developed algorithms. He also has ‘eyes,’ which consist of a 2D camera and a crosshair laser that enable him to identify objects, and is equipped with ‘muscles’ and a ‘sense of touch.’ This is made possible by sensors that measure how Toru touches an object as well as by drive units that enable Toru’s gripper to grab a book. What’s especially important is that Toru ‘knows’ he must stand still whenever a person crosses his path. Certified safety lasers continuously scan Toru’s immediate surroundings, causing him to stop if necessary.

For more information about Toru, see the following:


2.2 Amazon Robotics:  Kiva

Amazon uses Kiva robots in its warehouse operations to move racks of merchandise. Kiva Systems, purchased by Amazon in 2012 and renamed Amazon Robotics, was developed to use robots to move the “pods” on which the products are stored instead of searching for and moving individual products.

  • Excerpt from “Amazon Robotics: IoT in the Warehouse” by P. Valerio [6]:

Storage pods can hold hundreds of different types of products, but the size and shape of each pod is exactly the same….

The robots are controlled by a centralized computer using a secured WiFi network for communication. They have two powered wheels that allow them to rotate in place, IR for obstacle detection, and floor cameras to read QR codes on the ground. The QR codes are used by the robots to determine their location and direction. When the robots have been working for an hour, or are running low on battery power, they go to power stations and plug in for a quick charge.

For more information about Kiva, see the following:


2.3 PINC Solutions:  Aerial Inventory Robots (AIRs)

PINC’s unmanned aircraft system AIRs perform automatic inventory checks in warehouses [10]. PINC also has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate in geo-fenced commercial zones.

For more information about PINC AIR, see the following:


2.4 Airobotics:  Automated Drone

In 2017, Airobotics was authorized to fly fully automated drones in Israel for site surveying, power lines inspection, and other industrial applications.

For more information about Airobotic’s drones, see the following:


3.0 Medicine

3.1 APSARA:  Cardboard Drones

Excerpt from “Meet APSARA: a Cardboard Drone for Humanitarian Emergencies” by W. Deiderichs [15]:

In recent years, drones have slowly cemented themselves as an integral part of our future, providing us with a whole new dimension of possibilities. One of the latest additions to the drone family is the APSARA drone, a drone designed to potentially deliver supplies such as medicine in humanitarian crises.

For more information about APSARA’s cardboard drones, see the following:


4.0 Data

4.1 Saffron Technology:  Natural Intelligence Platform (NIP)

Saffron Technology’s NIP is a “… key-value, incremental learning, fast-query, graph-oriented, matrix-implemented, semantic, and statistical knowledge store inspired by the associative structure and function of real neural systems” [19]. It uses autonomous learning to analyze large and small data groups for manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, and defense.

For more information about NIP, see the following:


4.2 Automation Anywhere Enterprise:  Digital Workforce

Automation Anywhere Enterprise uses a digital “workforce” composed of software bots that complete business processes end to end.  It combines traditional robotic process automation software with cognitive elements, including reading unstructured data and natural language processing.

For more information on Automation Anywhere’s digital workforce, see the following:


4.3 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI):  Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs)

WHOI developed several AUVs that operate autonomously to collect data via sensors and cameras.  WHOI uses AUVs to investigate climate change, oil spills, ocean acidification, and other environmental concerns.

For more information on AUVs, see the following:


4.4 Other Virtual Agents

There are several virtual agents currently used in customer service and home management that could benefit the naval enterprise. Amazon, Apple, Google, Creative Virtual, Artificial Solutions, IPsoft, Microsoft, and Satisfi provide virtual agents with varying degrees of artificial intelligence and autonomy.

For more information on these virtual agents, see the following:



[1] Siemens. “Meet Toru the Tireless Warehouse Worker.”, 20 April 2016.

[2] Siemens. “World’s First Independently Operating Warehouse Robot.”, 8 March 2016.

[3] Magazino. “Toru.”, accessed 27 March 2017.

[4] Kremen, R. “A Dexterous Warehouse Robot Does Things Amazon’s Automated Helpers Can’t.” MIT Technology Review, 15 June 2016,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[5] Coldewey, D. “Magazino’s TORU Inventory-Grabbing Robot Rolls Into Major German Logistics Center.” TechCrunch, 7 September 2016,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[6] Valerio, P. “Amazon Robotics:  IoT in the Warehouse.” InformationWeek, 28 September 2015,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[7] Tam, D. “Meet Amazon’s Busiest Employee — the Kiva Robot.” CNET, 30 November 2014,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[8] Knight, W. “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse, Human-Robot Symbiosis.” MIT Technology Review, 7 July 2015,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[9] Shead, S. “Amazon Now Has 45,000 Robots in its Warehouses.” Business Insider, 3 January 2017,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[10] PINC. “Warehouse Drones:  Real-Time Inventory Tracking by Air.”, accessed 28 March 2017.

[11] UAV Expert News. “PINC Air Cleared for Take Off by the FAA.”, 30 November 2015.

[12] Schroth, F. “Intelligent Energy to Supply PINC With Hydrogen Fuel Cells for UAVs.” Drone Life,, 28 March 2017.

[13] Kolodny, L. “Airobotics Scores Authorization to Fly Autonomous Drones in Israel.” TechCrunch, 27 March 2017,, accessed 28 March 2017.

[14] Israeli Civil Aviation Authority. “Airobotics Is Granted World’s First Approval to Fly Fully-Automated, Commercial Drones Without a Pilot.” Airobotics, March 2017,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[15] Diederichs, W. “Meet APSARA:  A Cardboard Drone for Humanitarian Emergencies.” Gearburn, 23 March 2017,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[16] Farrell, P. “The Brilliant Drone That’ll Deliver Medicine – Then Rot Away.” Wired, 22 February 2017,, accessed March 24, 2017.

[17] DARPA. “Vanishing Acts:  A Call for Disappearing Delivery Vehicles.”, 9 October 2015.

[18] Ackerman, E. “Swarms of Disposable Drones Will Make Critical Deliveries and Then Vanish.” IEEE Spectrum, 1 February 2017,, accessed March 24, 2017.

[19] McLellan, C. “Saffron Technology:  How Intel’s Cognitive Computing Acquisition Thrives on Chaos.” Tech Pro Research, 10 February 2017,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[20] Intel Saffron Technology. “Introducing Intel Saffron Quality and Maintenance Decision Support Suite.”, accessed 27 March 2017.

[21] Woodie, A. “Saffron Gets $7M to Build Brain-Like Learning Machine.” Datanami, 20 March 2014,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[22] Morgan, J. “How Robotic Process and Automation Will Transform the Workplace.” Inc., 19 July 2016,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[23] Automation Anywhere Enterprise. “The Future of Work.”, accessed 27 March 2017.

[24] Automation Anywhere. “Automation Anywhere Unveils Industry’s First Analytics Solution Designed for Bots.” Market Wired, 12 October 2016,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[25] WHOI. “Autonomous Underwater Vehicles.”, accessed 28 March 2017.

[26] Rees, M. “ROV Captures New Images of USS Arizona.” Unmanned Systems Technology, 24 November 2016,, accessed 28 March 2017.

[27] Robotics Tomorrow. “Underwater Vehicles Follow Tagged Turtles in the Wild.”, 7 December 2016.

[28] Crist, R., and D. Carnoy. “Amazon Echo Review:  The Smart Speaker That Can Control Your Whole House.” CNET, 26 October 2017,, accessed June 2018.

[29] Amazon. “Amazon Echo – Black.”, accessed 27 March 2017.

[30] Apple. “Siri.”, accessed 27 March 2017.

[31] Purewal, S. J. “The Difference Between Google Now and Google Assistant.” CNET, 4 October 2016,, accessed 27 March 2017.

[32] Creative Virtual., accessed 27 March 2017.

[33] Artificial Solutions., accessed 27 March 2017.

[34] IPsoft., accessed 27 March 2017.

[35] Microsoft. “Cortana.”, accessed 27 March 2017.

[36] Satisfi Labs., accessed 27 March 2017.

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