Sensors and Autonomy for Unmanned Maritime Missions
Navy SBIR 2020.1 - Topic N201-070
ONR - Ms. Lore-Anne Ponirakis -
Opens: January 14, 2020 - Closes: February 12, 2020 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Sensors and Autonomy for Unmanned Maritime Missions


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Ground/Sea Vehicles, Information Systems, Sensors

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: INP: Full Spectrum Undersea Warfare

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate effective sensors and autonomous behaviors that enable unmanned vehicles to conduct missions of relevance to the Navy.

DESCRIPTION: New concepts in the employment of unmanned vehicles in Naval missions will require suitable sensing equipment and the necessary autonomous behaviors to support the desired mission goals. The Navy seeks sensor and autonomy solutions that support timely and effective use of unmanned vehicles in three maritime mission areas. Proposals must address one of these mission areas and suggest the necessary additional vehicle modifications that are expected to be necessary for achieving mission success. The desired vehicle classes and mission areas are:

1) Vehicle Description: Navy Class III Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicle, for example LDUUV “Snakehead”. Mission Description: Cable Repair – Locate and survey undersea cables; examine/record exposed cable surface for potential damage; mark precise locations of damaged sections.

2) Vehicle Description: Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, for example Firescout. Mission Description: Anti-Submarine Warfare – Given approximate location data of a submarine, re-locate the enemy and deliver operator-selected effects.

3) Vehicle Description: Tier 2 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, for example TERN. Mission Description: Anti-Surface Search – Given approximate location data of surface ships, conduct all-weather search, location, and identification and transmit the information to a remote operator.
The specific details of these mission concepts can be classified.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DSS and ONR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Identify a sensor and autonomy design that can be developed to meet the specifications. Examine the key mission activities that require use of autonomous behaviors. Analyze key design considerations assuming a particular unmanned vehicle and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed approach. Conduct a design review for the proposed concept to be pursued in a proposed Phase II plan, including the impact on the selected unmanned vehicle.

PHASE II: Develop and test a prototype for the proposed approach. Complete preliminary performance testing in a surrogate but possibly classified environment. Where necessary, hardware in the loop simulations can be used for demonstrating autonomous behaviors.

It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: In Phase III, extensively test the prototype fabricated in Phase II and examine mission performance under nominal operating conditions and well as performance in suboptimal environments and conditions. Potential dual use applications include hydrographic surveys, remote monitoring of harbor traffic, and undersea cable fault identification and repair.


1. Eckstein, Megan. “Navy Accelerating Work on ‘Snakehead’ Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle.” USNI News, April 4, 2017.

2. Owens, Katherine. “New Navy Class III undersea drone to be in the water by 2019.” Defense Systems, April 06, 2017.

3. “U.S. military UAS groups.”

4. Geisler, I., Karra, K., Cardenas F. and Underwood, D. “Design of a Transoceanic Cable Protection System.” George Mason University Dept. of Systems Engineering and Operations Research Technical Report, 2015.

5. Button, R., Kamp, J., Curtin, T. and Dryden, J. “A Survey of Missions for Unmanned Undersea Vehicles.” RAND National Defense Research Institute Report, 2009.

6. National Research Council; Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences; Naval Studies Board; Committee on Autonomous Vehicles in Support of Naval Operations (Contributors). “Autonomous Vehicles in Support of Naval Operations.” The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2005.

7. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences; Naval Studies Board; Committee on Mainstreaming Unmanned Undersea Vehicles into Future U.S. Naval Operations (Contributors). “Mainstreaming Unmanned Undersea Vehicles into Future U.S. Naval Operations: Abbreviated Version of a Restricted Report.” National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2016.

KEYWORDS: Autonomous Vehicles; Unmanned Vehicles Sensors; ASW; ASuW