Advanced Ship-handling Simulators
Navy STTR 2018.A - Topic N18A-T014
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam -
Opens: January 8, 2018 - Closes: February 7, 2018 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Advanced Ship-handling Simulators



ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMS 339 Surface Training Systems

OBJECTIVE: Develop open systems architecture software and algorithms that provide adaptive coaching features to enhance the performance of the Navy’s ship-handling training simulators.

DESCRIPTION: Despite its critical importance to the Navy, ship-handling training is becoming more challenging as Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) are afforded less training time at sea and consequently experiencing fewer opportunities to control a ship at sea (Conning watch) while under the apprenticeship of a more experienced master mariner.  This can lead to less confidence and diminished ship-handling competence among SWOs, which in turn increases the Navy’s risk for accidents when carrying out mission-critical tasks.  The current technology addressing these concerns is the Navy Conning Officers Virtual Environment (COVE), and the associated Intelligent Tutor System (ITS), COVE-ITS.  Together, these training systems provide opportunities for students to practice ship-handling tasks with spoken coaching and feedback from an instructor.  However, in its current form, the COVE-ITS, as well as products from the commercial marine industry, are unable to autonomously judge the student’s actions, provide suggestions, or ask questions that enable active learning.  Enhancements are needed with adaptive coaching capabilities to provide a real-time judgment with coaching/encouragement and enable post-evolution debriefing.

This effort seeks to develop open systems architecture software and algorithms to enhance the current ITS for ship-handling simulators with adaptive coaching to provide a post evaluation capability that could potentially enable a reduction in instructors required for Ship-handling Training when using the COVE.  An artificially intelligent mechanism can satisfy the training continuum provided it has the capability to recreate specific scenarios and events while doing so in a controlled and consistent manner.  This technology would greatly reduce dependency of students on instructors for high-velocity learning on ship-handling systems. During current COVE scenarios, an instructor must be present with the student to train, mentor, and assess performance.  The student feedback and assessment relies solely on the instructor’s visual observation of the student and the instructor must manually input those observations into the Conning Officer Ship-handling Assessment (COSA) system.  COVE and COSA are not integrated.  Advanced technologies have not been developed to automatically assess performance and provide feedback to the instructor and student.  The current method of instruction relies on costly one-to-one instructor’s visual observation of each student for the entirety of the scenario.  The use of this new tool will reduce instructor labor with significant impact on the lifecycle costs of teaching these courses.  This capability would allow SWOs to have the simulator and instructor resources needed to meet ship-handling proficiency requirements, reduce the training bottleneck, and increase the speed to the fleet of competent, qualified SWOs.  There are also cost-avoidance benefits with highly skilled and competent SWOs better maximizing warfighter effectiveness and safety at sea.

PHASE I: Identify and define functionality, and feasibility of a concept for a training module that can function seamlessly with COVE utilizing advanced ITS technology that would provide adaptive coaching and real-time judgment, and enable post-evolution debriefing utilizing technology within the virtual reality of the current simulator.  Deliver a determination of the technical feasibility of the concept into the current Surface Warfare Officer School (SWOS), SWOS COVE, and COSA infrastructure.  Phase I will include plans for a prototype to be developed during Phase II.

PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I, develop and deliver a prototype system to be integrated with COVE and with COSA for evaluation at SWOS.  The prototype will be evaluated in a relevant environment to determine its capability to meet the performance goals defined in the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW).  Evaluation results will be used to refine the prototype into a mature design that will meet the requirements.  The small business will provide all required software, instruction, and training material required to maintain and operate the system.  The company will prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology for Navy validation and accreditation.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Develop the full module to be implemented into the COVE and COSA systems.  Support the Navy and SWOS for test and validation to certify the system for use and ensure that it meets training objectives.  If Phase III is successful, the company will support the Navy in transitioning the technology for schoolhouse use.

The potential for commercial application and dual use would apply to advanced training systems for commercial industry.  The marine, shipping, and cruise/tourism industries utilize ship-handling simulators similar to the technology in COVE, but also lack autonomous assessment capabilities.  Reducing the need for instructors through improved system feedback is applicable to other Navy training environments.


1. Koenig, Alan, Lee, John, and Iseli, Markus. “CRESST Shiphandling Automated Assessment Engine: Mooring at a Pier.” CRESST Report May 2016.

2. Beidel, Eric. “Avatars Invade Military Training Systems.” NDIA Business and Technology Magazine. February 2012.

KEYWORDS: Ship-handling Training; Autonomy in Training Systems; Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) Training; Adaptive Coaching; Conning Officer Virtual Environment (COVE); Conning Officer Ship-handling Assessment (COSA)


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