The Sea Hunter technology demonstration vessel developed by Leidos for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's (DARPA) Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) programme has entered operational testing.
Leidos announced on 29 November that the 132-ft trimaran, formerly known as ACTUV, completed performance tests off the San Diego, California, coast.
Sea Hunter has been undergoing testing since being transported by barge from the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon, to San Diego in early 2016. The unmanned surface vehicle is scheduled to begin International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) testing in early 2017. That testing is expected to continue through December 2017.
ACTUV was originally built to track and trail submarines for days, weeks, and possibly months at a time. However, since its delivery to DARPA, the agency and the US Navy have begun exploring other missions for the vessel.
But before any decisions are made on what else Sea Hunter can do and whether the navy will buy additional platforms, the vessel must demonstrate it can safely operate autonomously, not only in open seas, but in crowded harbors and ports.
COLREGS is the lengthy certification process to determine whether Sea Hunter is a viable solution for conducting extended ASW missions.
Sea Hunter is currently undergoing engineering sea tests (ESTs) in the waters off San Diego to confirm readiness for more extensive COLREGS testing, Dave Antanitus, business development manager for Leidos, told IHS Jane's on 1 December.
"The ESTs began in November 2016 and will continue through January 2017. The EST includes exercises of waypoint navigation followed by more complex exercises involving autonomy's ability to avoid static obstacles and correctly respond to other vessels (either stand on or give way, depending on the COLREGS situation, and maintain safe distance)," he said. "After January 2017, Leidos will commence a series of extended COLREGS scenarios developed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, Leidos, ONR [US Navy Office of Naval Research], and DARPA.
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