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Sea Machines to demonstrate autonomous replenishment barges for Pentagon

autonomous barges for aircraft refueling Pentagon
Photo: Sea Machines

Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics Inc. has received funding from Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit to demonstrate prototypes of an autonomous barge capable of landing and replenishing military aircraft.

The $3.1 million contract for the second phase of the multi-phase contract will allow the developer of autonomous control systems to test a full-scale, oceangoing replenishment platform.

Sea Machines said the contract followed a proof-of-concept demonstration, which was completed after the company was selected to lead the program in October 2020.

The company proved that its “kit”, which turns conventional barges into autonomous platforms, could deliver assets to the defense forces capable of replenishing rotary wing aircraft, surface vessels, and shore stations.

Sea Machines previously said the ready-to-deploy system kits would enable autonomous, self-propelled operation of opportunistically available barges.

The equipment will include Sea Machines’ SM300 autonomous-command and control systems, barge propulsion, sensing, positioning, communications and refueling equipment, as well as items required for global deployment. According to the company, each modular kit will meet US Navy criteria and will be in compliance with classifications and regulations from the DOD’s aviation bodies.

Using the SM300, shoreside operators will have remote situational awareness and will be able to demonstrate the capabilities of remote command and control of the vessel, her operating systems and flight deck.

Sea Machines is working with FOSS Maritime, who is providing naval architecture, support engineering and operations management to outfit a remotely commanded deck barge to land helicopters and host a scaled fueling station for aircraft, surface vessels and shore replenishment.

Other partners of the program include Huntington Ingalls Industries and Bell Flight, a producer of commercial and military, vertical-lift aircraft.