DIGITAL ENGINEERING - Unmanned Harbor Piloting

Navy SBIR 22.1 - Topic N221-028
NAVSEA - Naval Sea Systems Command
Opens: January 12, 2022 - Closes: February 10, 2022 (12:00pm est)

N221-028 TITLE: DIGITAL ENGINEERING - Unmanned Harbor Piloting


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Ground / Sea Vehicles

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 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 an autonomous precision harbor piloting system that allows unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) to navigate safely within a channel, harbor, or strait without human intervention.

DESCRIPTION: Harbor piloting requires precise understanding of a vesselís current and projected position to avoid running aground. Additionally, areas such as channels, harbors, and straits are typically congested with other vessels. The current state-of-the-art in harbor piloting uses a human to integrate numerous inputs including his or her own senses of sight and hearing. Some work is currently ongoing to allow a pilot to perform this function from an off-vessel site. Innovations in process and methods by which the Navy conducts harbor piloting are required to ensure USVs are capable of safe transit in congested, confined, and constrained waterways without human intervention. These innovations will enable autonomous operations for future USVs.

The Navy seeks to develop an autonomous harbor piloting system (HPS) that will enable a USV to transit a channel, harbor, or strait without human intervention while consistently operating within the established navigational rules such as U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook (COLREGS) Rules 9 and 10 [Ref 1]. This includes sensing harbor hazards and features (bridges, marine traffic, buoys, etc.) and planning a recommended route containing, at a minimum, waypoints, leg speeds, leg cross track error, and leg-to-leg turn radii. Outputs from the HPS will inform the Maneuvering Operations autonomy segment that guides the vesselís movements. The Maneuvering Operations Autonomy segment is not being developed under this SBIR topic. Harbors may include traffic schemes, restricted areas, and congested, confined, cluttered or unimproved environments with limited water depth. The HPS shall follow the preferred traffic schemes and comply with the established navigational rules based on the USVís relative position to harbor features and obstacles.

HPS concepts shall be scalable for Medium and Large USVs (MUSV and LUSV respectively) and capable of sensing harbor hazards and features (bridges, marine traffic, buoys, etc.) with a precision of 6 m (~6.5 yds.) or less, at distances from 15-100m (~16-109 yds.) from the USV, and operating at speeds less than or equal to ~ 60 kts and testing to applicable military standards (IAW MIL-STD-810H. The sensing system may use a priori information such as charts to enhance the localization and classification of harbor hazards, but it cannot solely rely on charts for obstacle and hazard avoidance. MUSV Block I has a Length Overall of about 190 feet, a beam of about 33 feet, and a displacement of about 500 LT. LUSV is still in preliminary design, but it will be larger than MUSV.

It should be assumed that current USV platforms can determine their position to within 6 meters (~6.5 yds.) and have the capability to navigate in a forward direction at 5 m/s (~10 kts) or less with a track error of 6 meters (~6.5 yds.) or less. Additionally, the USV has a dynamic positioning system (DPS), capable of holding position within 10m (~11 yds.) and heading within 5į.

This SBIR topic seeks development of a solution that is Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) compliant to allow for compatibility with future USVs. To ensure interoperability with planned and future USVs, solutions must also comply with the PMS 406ís Unmanned Maritime Autonomy Architecture (UMAA). UMAA establishes a standard for common interfaces and software reuse among the mission autonomy and the various vehicle controllers, payloads, and Command and Control (C2) services in the PMS 406 portfolio of Unmanned Systems (UxS) vehicles. The UMAA common standard for Interface Control Documents (ICDs) mitigates the risk of unique autonomy solutions applicable to just a few vehicles allowing flexibility to incorporate vendor improvements as they are identified; affect cross-domain interoperability of UxS vehicles; and allow for open architecture (OA) modularity of autonomy solutions, control systems, C2, and payloads. UMAA standards and required ICDs will be provided during the Phase I effort.

Testing and certification of the route planning capability of the system will consist of autonomy simulation with a vessel of opportunity. The testing and certification of the overall performance of the system will consist of hardware-in-the-loop testing on a vessel of opportunity provided by the Government.

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 be implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency (DCSA), formerly the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DCSA and NAVSEA 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 advance phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Develop a concept design for an automated harbor transit system that meets the requirements in the Description. The concept design must define a system that can consistently operate within the established navigational rules, and include any modeling and simulation, studies, or prototypes in support of concept risk reduction. Demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed concept through modeling, analysis, and concept demonstrations.

The Phase I Option, if exercised, will deliver a preliminary design of the concept, identifying the baseline design (hardware, software, support systems) and underlying architectures to ensure that the concept has a reasonable expectation of satisfying the requirements.

PHASE II: Based on the Phase I results and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW), develop and deliver a prototype harbor piloting system based on the requirements in the Description. Identify the necessary interfaces, dependencies, and risks. After a successful Critical Design Review (CDR), develop a prototype system. Testing and certification of the route planning capability of the system will consist of autonomy simulation with a vessel of opportunity. The testing and certification of the overall performance of the system will consist of hardware-in-the-loop testing on a vessel of opportunity provided by the government.

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: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology to Navy use through system integration and qualification testing for the Navy USV harbor piloting system. UMAA-compliant precise navigation, planning, and execution systems for Navy USVs would have applicability to the commercial unmanned surface vehicles already widely in use further expanding their ability to adapt to their operational environment and conduct autonomous operations.


  1. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "United States Coast Guard Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook." Rule 9 - Narrow Channels and Rule 10 Traffic Separation Schemes, 2014: 18-21.
  2. Caccia, Massimo, Bibuli, Marco, Bono, Riccardo et al. "Basic navigation, guidance and control of an Unmanned Surface Vehicle." Autonomous Robots 25, 2008: 349Ė365.
  3. Liu, Zhixiang, Zhang, Youmin, Yu, Xiang, et al. "Unmanned surface vehicles: An overview of developments and challenges." Annual Reviews in Control 41, 2016: 71-93.
  4. Kolar, Parsana, Benavidez, Patrick, and Jamshidi, Mo. "Survey of Datafusion Techniques for Laser and Vision Based Sensor Integration for Autonomous Navigation." Sensors 20(8), 2020: 2180.
  5. Military Standard Ė Test Method Standard MIL-STD-810H "Environmental Engineering Consideration and Laboratory Tests", Part Two Ė Laboratory Test Methods, 2021: 80,

KEYWORDS: UxV; Unmanned systems; Harbor pilot navigation; autonomous navigation; UMAA; perception sensors; datafusion; COLREGS; MOSA


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the overall DoD 22.1 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

The DoD issued its 22.1 SBIR BAA pre-release on December 1, 2021, which opens to receive proposals on January 12, 2022, and closes February 10, 2022 (12:00pm est).

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