NEWPORT, R.I. -- Along the coast of the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, members of industry, academia and the Navy recently experimented with unmanned underwater vehicles that officials believe could one day prove key in future naval skirmishes.
The fourth iteration of the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise took place in late August at Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport. As part of the event's theme, "human-machine interaction," researchers focused on increasing trust between operators and autonomous vehicles.
While industry has made strides in developing unmanned platforms that can perform a variety of tasks underwater, more trust is still needed, said Rear Adm. John Tammen, director of undersea warfare at OPNAV N97.
"At the end of the day, [those of] us who are wearing the uniform have to trust the vehicles, the machinery, the interfaces, because if we don't trust them we're not going to use them when it comes time to go into combat," he said during remarks at the exercise.
Events such as ANTX give military operators the ability to give positive and negative feedback to UUV manufacturers so they can tweak them and roll out improved versions, he added.
That means that when the "rubber has to meet the road, we are going to use the stuff that you guys are putting together because we're confident in it," he told industry.
Ronald Vein, technical director at NUWC Division Newport, said participants at the event are identifying technologies that enable or achieve coordinated detection, localization and tracking of undersea, surface and air threats.
This year's ANTX was the largest exercise the service has hosted in terms of the number of participants, vehicles and technologies taking part, Vein said. NUWC Newport collaborated with Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command for some experiments and also teamed up with the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance, or SENEDIA.
"We do this because we want to broaden our audience and leverage our shared interest, and that is... undersea superiority," he said.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said that he wanted NUWC Newport to expand the work it is doing in unmanned systems and continue to grow ANTX.
"I want this to be the equivalent of the Paris Air Show for unmanned and remote vehicles," he said. "I want to make sure that Newport stays at the very forefront of it."
Nick DelGreco, ANTX's integration lead, said this year's event had three primary goals: foster collaboration...