It could be the biggest robot craft ever made. Lockheed Martin has won a lucrative $43.2 million US Navy contract to built a radical new giant submarine - without a human on board. Called Orca, the Navy hopes to use up to nine of the giant submarines on secret mission. They will be able to stay underwater for months at a time, communicating remotely from enemy waters. Called Orca, the Navy hopes to use up to nine of the giant submarines on secret mission.
A high-flying drone equipped with surveillance sensors and a wingspan longer than that of a Boeing 737 will be the newest way for the U.S. Navy to monitor the seas. The first operational MQ-4C Triton drone will be delivered by Northrop Grumman Corp. to the Navy within the next week at Point Mugu Naval Air Station near Oxnard, with a second drone to follow by the end of the year. The two drones will undergo testing at Point Mugu before being deployed to Guam next year. The program has strong California roots -- engineering and design is done in Rancho Bernardo, and the drone is assembled in Palmdale. During low-rate initial production, that line will churn out three Tritons a year.
Octavia, a humanoid robot designed to fight fires on Navy ships, has mastered an impressive range of facial expressions. When she's turned off, she looks like a human-size doll. She has a smooth white face with a snub nose. Her plastic eyebrows sit evenly on her forehead like two little capsized canoes. When she's on, however, her eyelids fly open and she begins to display emotion.
Lockheed Martin's interest in a San Diego start-up shows how big aerospace companies are pushing the drone revolution out to sea. Lockheed Martin Ventures last month invested an undisclosed amount in San Diego-based Ocean Aero -- a 25-employee start-up that is developing the Submaran, a solar- and wind-powered ocean drone capable of operating above and below the surface. "The ability to be environmentally powered allows us to maneuver at great persistence because it's renewable," said Eric Patten, chief executive of Ocean Aero and a former Navy officer. "And then to be able to transition that vehicle from the surface to a sub-surface vehicle that has significant capability under water, that is truly unique." Lockheed Martin Venture typically invests $1 million to $5 million in young companies.
Every weapon, vehicle, and device connected, sharing data, constantly aware of the presence and state of every other node in a truly global network. Standing before a sea of dark- blue uniforms at a September Air Force Association event in Maryland, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said he had "refined" his plans for the Air Force after discussions with the Joint Chiefs "as part of the creation of the classified military strategy." In April, the Corps' Warfighting Lab staged a beach assault, linking together robots, ships, satellites, amphibious assault vehicles to share targeting info and other situational intelligence. Last year, an experimental datalink allowed the pilot of a Marine Corps F-35B strike aircraft to send targeting data to an Aegis destroyer, which shot down the target drone with an SM-6 missile.
Every weapon, vehicle, and device connected, sharing data, constantly aware of the presence and state of every other node in a truly global network. Standing before a sea of dark- blue uniforms at a September Air Force Association event in Maryland, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said he had "refined" his plans for the Air Force after discussions with the Joint Chiefs "as part of the creation of the classified military strategy." The Air Force Science Board is studying how to control a network of military equipment including light attack aircraft, tanks and even unmanned drones. As DefenseOne explains, although most of the research into the networked military is being conducted by the Air Force, once implemented, any system would likely include weapons from across the military, like Navy destroyers, said Chow.
The D3000's closest international counterpart is the Sea Hunter, built for DARPA's ACTUV anti-submarine program. The 131-foot, 145 ton Sea Hunter has a speed of only 27 knots, but that's fine because it's conceived as a test ship for future unmanned operations. Conceptually, the Sea Hunter and its follow-ons would also take on roles like tracking enemy submarines and mine detection, as opposed to antiship role reflected the D3000 concept. Of course, there's nothing from stopping China from building its own sub-hunting robotic warships to make up for its historical anti-submarine warfare weakness.
Rolls-Royce released this photo of the concept version of its autonomous naval ship. Rolls-Royce plans to make a self-piloting navy ship, powered by artificial intelligence, sophisticated sensors and advanced propulsion, for sale to military forces around the world. Amid increasing concern among some technologists about the prospect of self-aware artificial intelligence systems becoming a threat to humanity, the company said it was already conducting "significant analysis of potential cyber risks" to "ensure end-to-end security." Rolls-Royce released this photo of the concept version of its autonomous naval ship.
The Navy is starting to use repurposed Xbox 360 controllers to control the periscopes on some of its submarines, according to The Virginian-Pilot. In the past, many Virginia-class submarines used mast-mounted cameras to see above the water and they required helicopter-like joysticks that required extensive training and were costly to use. Lockheed Martin said sailors were able to pick up the controller scheme within minutes and for the Navy, the shorter training time is a secondary benefit. Plus, Xbox 360 controllers, which run around $30, cost way less than a military grade joystick for a submarine.
Spurred in part by the car industry's race to build driverless vehicles, marine innovators are building automated ferry boats for Amsterdam canals, cargo ships that can steer themselves through Norwegian fjords and remote-controlled ships to carry containers across the Atlantic and Pacific. "We're in full autonomy now," said Jeff Gawrys, a marine technician for Boston startup Sea Machines Robotics, sitting at the helm as the boat floated through a harbor channel. The ocean is "a wide open space," said Sea Machines CEO Michael Johnson. In Norway, fertilizer company Yara International is working with engineering firm Kongsberg Maritime on a project to replace big-rig trucks with an electric-powered ship connecting three nearby ports.