An unmanned surface vessel sailing the seas as part of the US Navy’s Ghost Fleet Overlord program recently took part in a larger exercise with other ships where it spent nearly all of its underway time operating autonomously.
The Ghost Fleet ship first traveled from the Gulf Coast to the coast of California, moving autonomously approximately 97 percent of the time. While the USV did have a crew on board, remote mission command and control for the trip was done from a remote location by sailors with Surface Development Squadron One.
Afterward, it participated in exercise Dawn Blitz with the Navy and Marine Corps. There, it successfully demonstrated compliance with international regulations for preventing collisions at sea, station keeping, loiter and transit missions, the navy said. It was the first time a Ghost Fleet Overlord USV interacted with actual assets in the Navy fleet.
During its participation in Dawn Blitz, the Ghost Fleet Overlord USV operated autonomously for more than 130 hours and traversed roughly 950 nautical miles — accounting for approximately 98% of its underway time.
The Ghost Fleet Overlord program is part of an effort to accelerate the navy’s push to incorporate autonomous vessels within its fleet to better expand the reach of manned vessels.
The service’s efforts to adopt the unmanned vessel concept involve several classes of ships and an array of missions, such as offensive operations and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance with reduced risk to crew and legacy vessels. The Ghost Fleet Overlord program was stood up in late 2018.
To help the navy advance its goal to incorporate autonomous vessels within the fleet, the Strategic Capabilities Office’s Ghost Fleet Overlord program has taken commercial ocean-going vessels and integrated both commercially-available and government-provided equipment on board to create unmanned surface vessels.
Phase II of the Ghost Fleet Overlord program, which focuses on the integration of government-furnished command-and-control systems and payloads and more complex and challenging naval operations experimentation, began in September.
The SCO will transition its two Ghost Fleet Overlord prototypes to the Surface Development Squadron One by the end of fiscal year 2021.
The navy also revealed it is currently acquiring two more Ghost Fleet Overlord prototypes to accompany the two SCO built to continue unmanned systems testing and fleet experimentation.
“Our close partnership with SCO on the Overlord program is accelerating the technology demonstration, CONOPs development and operational command and control of unmanned surface vessels in direct alignment with the navy’s plans,” CAPT Pete Small, Navy Program Manager for USVs, said.