A Coast Guard prototype unmanned surface vehicle performs a test off Oahu, Hawaii, Oct. 7, 2020. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Research and Development Center/Released

U.S. Coast Guard Completes Unmanned Surface Vehicles Test Off Hawaii

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November 27, 2020

The U.S. Coast Guard has completed a 30-day demonstration and evaluation of unmanned surface vehicles off Oahu.

The focus of the test, which wrapped up in early November, was to explore how current and emerging technologies might be used to enhance maritime domain awareness in remote regions.

The test also showed ways USVs with assorted sensor capabilities might support the Coast Guard’s missions around the globe ranging from search and rescue, to law enforcement.

“It’s clear that autonomous technology is a growing industry, and has great potential to enhance Coast Guard operations,” said Cmdr. Blair Sweigart, the demonstration’s director from the Coast Guard Research and Development Center. “Combined with artificial intelligence algorithms, unmanned systems could be a game changer.”

During the test, the Coast Guard examined USVs from Saildrone and Spatial Integrated Systems to understand their capabilities and effectiveness. The USVs participated in a variety of operational simulations to detect and alert the Coast Guard to both legitimate and nefarious behavior.

One of the service’s main goals, as outlined in the Coast Guard’s Strategic Plan 2018-2022, is to “evaluate emerging technologies, such as unmanned platforms, artificial intelligence, machine learning, network protocols, information storage, and human-machine collaboration for possible use in mission execution.”

These tests will help the Coast Guard to identify how USVs could be used to support search and rescue operations, improve Marine Environmental response, enhance Port Security, aid in the fight against illegal maritime smuggling, and identify vessels engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

“The demonstration helped us understand what these technologies currently are, and are not, capable of,” said Sweigart. “These vessels proved to be very effective across a variety of mission areas. The results of this study will help shape how the Coast Guard, and our partners, incorporate USVs into our future operations.”

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