The U.S. Navy is moving fast to acquire a new unmanned surface vehicle (USV) and hopes to award a contract for the USV by the end of 2019. Over the next two months, the Navy plans to issue a request for proposals for a new, medium-sized USV, up to 50 meters long. The Navy seeks a USV that can function as a sensor and communication relay as part of a family of unmanned surface systems being developed by the Navy. Additionally, the USV will be able to carry a payload similar to that of a 40-foot shipping container, return to port, and be capable of refueling at sea. The USV will also be able to autonomously operate at a cruising speed of about 16 knots, with a minimum range of 4,500 nautical miles, operated through a government-provided communication relay system.

In addition to these USVs, the Navy plans to invest to improve the technology on its unmanned underwater vehicles as well. The Navy also plans to add 100 personnel to its explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) force so it can have a greater presence around the globe. These two additions to its fleet will allow the Navy to search bodies of water for potential dangers and neutralize threats much faster.

The Navy has eight (8) unmanned systems platoons now and will grow to 16 in the next three years. Unlike other parts of the EOD community, the men and women in the unmanned systems platoons are not EOD techs, but rather pull from a range of fleet ratings.

The Navy’s goal is to enable the unmanned vehicle to make decisions while it’s in the water, and reach a level of trust in the vehicle to make the right decisions. If the vehicle sees an object of interest, it can decide to take more passes at it so the Navy can better understand what’s there, which in turn will save team members the time of having to send out a second mission. We will provide updates on other maritime unmanned vehicle projects as the Navy invests more efforts in this area.