DARPA moves to phase 2 of unmanned ship programme

The US government’s DARPA agency is moving to phase 2 of its No Manning Required Ship (NOMARS) programme, a project to build, test and demonstrate an unmanned surface vessel (MUSV) that can go to sea and perform missions without any humans present on board.

The Agency worked with Serco Inc on phase 1 of the project to create a new Design Space Exploration (DSX) toolset that can evaluate spaces with a variety of parameters and output millions of ship designs to meet performance objectives and constraints.

That tool created a set of ship designs ranging from 170-270 metric tons, refined into a single ship for the preliminary design review, which the company dubbed Defiant. In phase 2, Serco will finalise this ship design, build the ship, and work through a series of testing activities before taking it to sea for a three-month demonstration event.

The fundamental DARPA requirement for the NOMARS programme is that there will never be a human on board the vessel while it is at sea, including during underway replenishment (UNREP) events.

The design will incorporate a ‘graceful degradation’ philosophy for maintenance that allows individual equipment to fail over time by having enough system-level redundancy to meet full system requirements at speeds of at least 15 knots after one year at sea.

The major system components of the selected design are modularised, so repairs can be conducted with equipment typically found in yacht-yards worldwide.

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Rob O'Dwyer
Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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