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Autonomous Vehicles in Support of Naval Operations
mowing, ship cleaning, and for many other purposes. For logistics applications, a number of commercial automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are in daily use in factories around the world.
It is important that the Marine Corps and Navy leverage the efforts of other Services and industry. Several formal mechanisms exist to help with coordination. In 1990, the OSD established the Joint Robotics Program,1 to coordinate all of the ground robot programs of the individual Services. The Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) UGV Master Plan2 provides a comprehensive overview of the current programs and their status. The Joint Robotics Program works with the Unmanned Ground Vehicle Joint Program Office (UGV JPO) in Huntsville, Alabama; with the PMS EOD (Program Management Office for Explosive Ordnance Disposal in the Naval Sea Systems Command); with the Program Manager-Physical Security Equipment (PM-PSE); with the Air Force Research Laboratory; with the Army’s Tank and Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center; and with technology base programs at DARPA, the Special Operations Command, and the Army Research Laboratory (ARL). The UGV JPO is a joint Army and Marine program. Significantly, the Future Combat System program, initiated by the Army and DARPA, is now a joint Army and Marine program also. The Marine Corps directly sponsors UGV development through the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL). The Navy is active through the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Navy laboratories have also played an important direct role in building robot vehicles: the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), over the past two decades, has built a number of prototype UGVs both for naval applications and for other Services.
A recent study by the National Research Council3 reviews UGV technology, applications, and programs in a U.S. Army context. The reader is referred to that report for a more complete treatment than appears here.
This chapter discusses the potential of UGVs for naval operations. It includes a description of the UGVs currently available or under development and a discussion of naval operational needs and technology issues and of opportunities for improved operations. It then presents the conclusions and recommendations of the committee with respect to UGVs.