- ONR is co-ordinating a science and technology effort intended to provide the US amphibious community with more small autonomous vehicles
- Funding of USD41 million is anticipated over five years and the first study contracts will be awarded in September 2017
Amphibious assaults could be led in the future by swarms of small unmanned vehicles able to operate on the sea surface and land, according to a concept development strategy unveiled by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR).
In a call for innovative science and technology proposals, ONR suggested that up to 100 low-cost autonomous amphibious vehicles could be deployed "as the first wave into contested landing zones to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance, clear mines, and secure terrain to allow follow-on forces to safely move ashore".
A total of USD41 million is expected to be made available to industry and academic institutions through 2021 for studies that will help develop a family of bi-domain (sea/land) unmanned systems that can manoeuvre, individually and collectively, from ship to shore, through the surf zone and advance inland.
White Papers are due by 20 January and those judged to be of "particular value" will be invited to provide full proposals by 31 March. Multiple contract awards, ranging from USD250,000 to USD4 million, are planned for September 2017.
In a broad agency announcement published in December 2016, ONR said it wants to co-ordinate the development of systems that can "autonomously manoeuvre, sense, and communicate in the challenging sea-land interface in varied shore environments including surf, urban, mud-flats, rocky beach, beach with obstacles, and beach vegetation such as mangroves".
Proposals will focus on two technology areas (TAs). TA 1 (worth an estimated USD33.5 million) will investigate bi-domain autonomy with individual vehicles, collaborate among large numbers of autonomous vehicles, and collaborate with manned platforms. TA 2 (worth an estimated USD7.5 million) will examine ship-to-shore manoeuvres in small, high-speed vehicles with modular payloads and low signatures.
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