National Academies Press: OpenBook

Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions (2020)

Chapter: 5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems

« Previous: 4 Unmanned System Experience in the U.S. Coast Guard and Other Federal Agencies
Page 83
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

5

A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems

The U.S. Coast Guard’s limited use of unmanned systems (UxSs) for select mission areas has been paying dividends in the form of improved mission execution, most notably in the case of its use of small unmanned aerial systems (sUASs) that augment the surveillance capabilities of National Security Cutters. Briefings by Coast Guard leaders revealed a strong desire to leverage UxS to enhance mission capabilities across the Service’s air, surface, underwater, and shore-based domains.1 The committee heard, for instance, about the Coast Guard’s interest in leveraging unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for surveillance, unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) to assist in aids-to-navigation maintenance and ice survey missions, and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) for subsurface situation awareness. Table 5-1 gives these and other example applications, including systems that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to aid decision making. In many cases, however, uncertainty remains about the full range of mission areas suited to these systems—both functioning alone and in concert with one another and manned systems—and about the scale of effort that is justified and warranted for the Service to incorporate them effectively into current and future operations concepts.

The chapter starts with three vignettes envisioning how the future Coast Guard could exploit current and prospective capabilities of UxSs, including the pairing and integrating of capabilities provided by multiple systems. The vignettes offer insight into why the Coast Guard’s interest in UxSs has been growing to encompass a wider spectrum of systems,

__________________

1 ADM Matthew Sibley briefing to the committee in May 2020.

Page 84
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

TABLE 5-1 Examples of Potential Future Coast Guard Applications of UxS

Domain Platform/Technology Mission Capability
Air/space Tethered drones Augmented surveillance
UAS Persistent surveillance
Cube satellites Enhanced communications
Surface Autonomous boats Aids-to-navigation maintenance
Ice survey
Subsurface UUV Counter UUV/anti-swimmer
Shore Decision aids Vessel inspections
Pollution response
Artificial intelligence algorithms Staff/administrative work reduction

domains, and mission areas. To assist the Coast Guard in making choices about where, how, and at what scale it should exploit UxS, the vignettes are followed by an example of a deliberate way to think about aligning UxS capabilities with mission areas while accounting for considerations such as operational efficiency benefits and costs and resource demands associated with different UxS application complexities and implementation scales. The chapter concludes by highlighting systems engineering considerations that the Coast Guard would need to address in leveraging and integrating UxS, particularly at a larger scale.

COAST GUARD UxS USE SCENARIOS

It has been said that robots are best suited for work that is “dull, dirty, and dangerous.” In addition, to the 3 “Ds,” potential applications for UxSs by the Coast Guard may be described as “distant and exhausting.” Operating in all U.S. and territorial waters, the Coast Guard’s fleets of cutters, boats, and aircraft can be stretched thin, along with the personnel responsible for operating them and carrying out missions. UxSs have reached cost and capability readiness to relieve some of these mission tasks, including many that can be characterized as dull, dirty, dangerous, distant, and exhausting. The following three vignettes, for scenarios involving Search and Rescue (SAR), Aids to Navigation (ATON), and Arctic and Oceania missions, illustrate the possibilities.

Page 85
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

Search and Rescue

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, the Coast Guard responded to more than 15,000 maritime SAR cases, assisted more than 41,000 people, and saved 3,965 lives in imminent danger.2 Many of the searches were handled by a single small boat station. Air support, when required, was usually provided by a single Coast Guard air station. Both small boat stations and air stations are constrained by the number of boats or aircraft (typically three aircraft and two or three boats) in addition to personnel limits. Thus, the longer and more complicated the search, the more difficult it is to maintain full response capability.

For SAR, timeliness is critical and made all the more challenging by harsh weather, distance, and scarcity of personnel and assets. Indeed, the Coast Guard’s FY 2018 Performance Report, states

the number of cases the Coast Guard is called to respond to are becoming increasingly complex, requiring greater levels of SAR planning proficiency. Therefore, the Office of Search and Rescue is developing innovative Service-wide training solutions to improve SAR planning across the Service in effort to retain and sharpen the skills necessary to execute complex maritime SAR.

The time it takes to reach the scene of distress is a key performance factor that may influence the response outcome. The Coast Guard’s performance benchmark is to arrive on scene within two hours of notification 100% of the time.

Factors beyond the Coast Guard’s control influence its ability to arrive within the benchmark timeframe, including adverse weather conditions, unfavorable geographical proximity, and limited asset availability. The Coast Guard is continually looking at ways to improve this performance, with focus on where search and rescue assets are strategically located.3

Although SAR depends on highly skilled, ready, and courageous personnel, UxS can relieve them of some of their more taxing responsibilities and augment their performance in several ways. Here we describe a hypothetical future Coast Guard where small boat stations have smart unmanned aviation support. This capability would enable the station to start a search by launching several sUAS, as the boat crew is getting ready. The sUAS could launch with search waypoints automatically uploaded from the sector’s SAR Optimal Planning System (SAROPS). The sUAS would take a direct path to their assigned search area without regard to land mass or the need to utilize the marine transportation system. This would allow

__________________

2 U.S. Coast Guard Fiscal Year 2018 Performance Report. https://www.uscg.mil/Portals/0/documents/budget/FY%202018%20USCG%20APR%20Signed%206-12-19.pdf.

3 U.S. Coast Guard Fiscal Year 2018 Performance Report. Page 38.

Page 86
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

them to quickly able to make on-scene weather reports. Carrying a small camera that sends live stream video, they could provide a priori situational awareness to rescue crews. SAROPS would be automatically updated, and the search area is continuously refined based on live environmental conditions. As information is rapidly disseminated across the entire search team, Coast Guard responses are faster and better focused on the correct search area. It is also conceivable that the sUAS could drop a flotation device, location beacon, or portable very high frequency (VHF) radio to facilitate the rescue. The dangers and difficulties of some of the Coast Guard’s most challenging SAR operations, such as Bering Sea fishing boat rescues, are reduced, albeit not eliminated.

The most important performance result of this UxS scenario is more lives saved and fewer lives endangered. Secondary benefits could be fewer boat and aircraft sorties with associated reductions in crew stress and crew fatigue and ancillary benefits of reduced craft maintenance. While such a scenario is well within the capabilities of today’s UxS readiness, it is easy to imagine a longer-term, but not distant, scenario in which experience with these systems grows and the capabilities evolve to impact the manning and number of stations and boats required across the entire Coast Guard.

Aids to Navigation

Coast Guard cutters, boats, aircraft, and personnel are in heavy demand for myriad critical functions during and after a major hurricane or other severe natural disaster that affects a coastal or inland waterway region. Large storms accentuate the relative lack of assets and equipment that can be surged to a particular location if a storm rakes a large geographic area (up the East Coast or a large swath of the coastal Gulf of Mexico).

One of the more important Coast Guard functions in the aftermath of a disaster is the reconstitution of ports critical to the health and safety of affected communities and for the economy of an entire region. Opening a port quickly can be crucial to the logistics of aiding devastated areas that may be hundreds of miles away.

Key to port reconstitution is ensuring that ATON are functioning and in their proper place. The Coast Guard establishes, maintains, and operates more than 45,000 buoys and beacons, both lighted and unlighted, and is responsible for administration of a nearly equivalent number of private navigation aids.4 Following a storm, these assets need to be restored quickly to enable the clearing of channels and docks of debris to make them usable and for identifying and mitigating secondary disasters such as pollution spills. Yet, even working with federal, state, and local partners, a large

__________________

4 U.S. Coast Guard Fiscal Year 2018 Performance Report.

Page 87
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

storm will stress the Coast Guard’s limited resources, which can only be in one place at a time. For example, after Hurricane Sandy passed through New York, the Coast Guard’s Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit had to wait for the arrival of Coast Guard cutters, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) vessels, and Army Corps of Engineers vessels to start a physical assessment of the port. In the After Action report, Coast Guard officials recounted the workload challenge.5

New York Harbor was directly in the path of the most damaging part of the storm. There was significant impact on many of the terminal facilities of the Port of New York and New Jersey. The U.S. Coast Guard closed the entire Port to all traffic before the storm hit on October 28th, and it was not fully reopened to vessel traffic until November 4th. After the storm … they surveyed the damage to prepare to reopen the Port. Activities included conducting waterway surveys to ensure navigational aids were on station, locating and removing marine debris, locating floating shipping containers, and making sure that the channels were cleared for navigation.6

Although disasters of the magnitude and scale of Hurricane Sandy will stress Coast Guard assets and personnel to restore the functioning of the marine transportation system, UxS capabilities can be a force multiplier. It is conceivable that a future Coast Guard could equip Captains of the Port with UxSs tailored to their areas of responsibility. The systems could include sUASs and UUVs pre-programmed with vital port characteristics such as channel locations, depths, and the precise location of ATONs. When storms approach, these systems may be staged in locations so that they can be deployed immediately after the event to check the status of both fixed and floating ATONs. The sUASs and UUVs could be deployed to survey channels, report missing ATONs, and check for clearance near cargo piers. In a case like New York Harbor with Hurricane Sandy, the condition of the marine transportation system could be better understood much more quickly.

By commencing this surveillance and verification activity without having to wait for vessel support, such as Coast Guard buoy tenders or NOAA ships with side-scan sonar, the Captains of the Port could save hours or even days in opening the port. When support vessels do arrive, they could immediately get to work on damaged infrastructure without having to conduct laborious channel surveys.

__________________

5 LT Hillary Allegretti, CDR Linda Sturgis, and LCDR Anne Morrissey. 2012. Hurricane Sandy, Sector New York Marine Transportation System Recovery Unit, After Action Report. https://homeport.uscg.mil/Lists/Content/Attachments/1901/SANDY%20AFTER%20ACTION%20REPORT%20MTSRU.pdf.

6 U.S. Department of Transportation. UTC Spotlight., November 2016. “Lessons Learned from Super Storm Sandy.” https://cms7.dot.gov/utc/lessons-learned-super-storm-sandy.

Page 88
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

During normal times, these same autonomous systems are capable of carrying out the routine checks on the status of ATONs. ATON teams would no longer have to transit long distances by car or boat to perform these routine checks, allowing them to spend more time and resources addressing known discrepancies.

Remote Pacific and Artic Surveillance

As discussed in Chapter 1, the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) consists of approximately 4.5 million square miles of sea spread across three oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. Alaska’s Pacific and Artic waters alone encompass some 1.5 million square miles, and the waters surrounding Hawaii and the Oceania territories of the Central and Western Pacific cover more than 2 million square miles. Together Alaska, Hawaii, and Oceania represent nearly 85 percent of the EEZ. Although the EEZ is of great importance to the country, ensuring safe, legal, secure, and environmentally responsible maritime activity across this vast domain presents an enormous challenge for the Coast Guard.

In FY 2018, the Coast Guard reported that it met its boarding and compliance performance standards less than 25 percent of the time due to constrained asset hours and ineffective targeting.7 The reported interdiction rate was only 31 percent, while detected incursions grew by nearly 50 percent. Although these data are heavily influenced by illicit activity in the Gulf of Mexico, illegal fishing in the Central and Western Pacific is substantial, and a particularly challenging problem to monitor and interdict because of the difficulty of conducting persistent surveillance over such vast territory that includes waters off the Western Aleutians Islands to the far north, American Samoa to the far south, and Guam to the far west. By way of example, the Coast Guard’s FY 2018 performance report noted that

Tuna fisheries are among the most valuable pelagic fisheries in the world. In FY 2018, there was one incursion detected along the U.S.-Russia Maritime Boundary Line; and 15 incursions detected in the Western and Central Pacific where tuna are prevalent, a region that is extremely remote, hard to effectively patrol, and where it is difficult to detect incursions and even more difficult to respond in a timely manner.8

In the Arctic region, the challenges facing the Coast Guard have been growing as climate change invites increased maritime activity. In FY 2018, the Coast Guard conducted 15 SARs and forward deployed two HH-60

__________________

7 U.S. Coast Guard Fiscal Year 2018 Performance Report.

8 U.S. Coast Guard Fiscal Year 2018 Performance Report. Page 36. https://www.uscg.mil/Portals/0/documents/budget/FY%202018%20USCG%20APR%20Signed%206-12-19.pdf.

Page 89
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

helicopters to Kotzebue, Alaska, on the Chukchi Sea above the Arctic Circle. Other years have seen deployments even farther north on the Beaufort Sea. The Coast Guard missions in Alaska are varied, as noted in the FY 2018 Performance Report:

The U.S. has significant equities in the [Arctic] region, and the Coast Guard is responsible for them. This includes exercising maritime sovereignty and maintaining persistent maritime domain awareness in the Arctic; providing effective maritime border control; overseeing and ensuring the safety of maritime activities; protecting natural resources; providing governance regimes; and supporting collaborative engagement that safeguards U.S. Arctic interests.9

The distances in the Arctic are vast. The Coast Guard Air Station in Kodiak in the Gulf of Alaska is nearly 1,000 miles to Barrow on the Beaufort Sea and 700 miles to Kotzebue. By superimposing the map of Alaska over the map of the contiguous 48 states, Figure 5-1 shows the relative size of Alaska’s vast distances. Sorties to northern points in Alaska may cross several mountain ranges. The combination of rugged terrain, harsh weather, and mountain ranges combine to make Coast Guard flights more difficult, dangerous, and expensive than normal.

Although maritime domain awareness across such a vast and arduous region will always be challenging, with broader-based use of UAS capabilities a future Coast Guard could project its presence farther by a fleet of all-weather, long-range UAS aircraft based in Kodiak. The UAS could be routinely deployed into the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, and Beaufort Sea with the understanding that visibility in the Arctic is often limited by cloud cover—ranging from 50–70 percent most of the year and varying seasonally up to 70–85 percent during June–October—which may compel future UAS to operate below cloud cover much of the time. In Guam, the Coast Guard sector might be augmented not only by UAS but also by a fleet of USVs and UUVs.

Equipped with live stream cameras and video recording capability, these systems would eliminate random sea patrols and boardings of opportunity. In their place, the Coast Guard conducts targeted boardings of vessels in locations known for illicit activity such as illegal fishing. In some domestic cases, video provided by UxS could eliminate the need for a boarding, as violators would be met at the pier when the fishing vessel returns and the high-definition video could be used as evidence. Fisheries law enforcement is transformed, because the information gained from the

__________________

9 U.S. Coast Guard Fiscal Year 2018 Performance Report. Page 21. https://www.uscg.mil/Portals/0/documents/budget/FY%202018%20USCG%20APR%20Signed%206-12-19.pdf.

Page 90
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Image
FIGURE 5-1 Map of Alaska and some of its main towns overlaid over the map of the contiguous United States to illustrate the scale of the distances between Kodiak, Barrow, and Kotzebue.10

UxSs would be shared with partner nations to ensure the protection of each nation’s natural resources.

The Coast Guard’s use of UxS has the potential to expand maritime domain awareness exponentially above the Arctic Circle, as UAS could routinely fly pre-designated areas with a host of sensors that can detect electronic emissions and vessels. The UAS fly day or night regardless of weather, eliminating the dangers to manned flight of high-latitude operations. They could be operated by a ground-based workforce charged with conducting surveillance over a large swath of the Arctic regions.

A FRAMEWORK FOR MISSION ANALYSIS AND SYSTEMS TRADES

The three vignettes are helpful for visualizing how various UxS capabilities can support some of the Coast Guard’s 11 statutory missions. Based on information received from the Coast Guard, briefings by technology

__________________

10 DHS website. Written testimony of U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp, Jr., for a Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security field hearing titled “U.S. Coast Guard Operations in Alaska.” August 6, 2012. https://www.dhs.gov/news/2012/08/06/written-testimony-us-coast-guard-commandant-admiral-robert-papp-jr-senate-committee.

Page 91
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

developers, and documented experience with UxSs in other domains, Table 5-2 provides a more complete alignment of UxS capabilities with Coast Guard missions. Although a first-cut assessment and by no means exhaustive of all possibilities, the matrix reveals the following interesting points:

  • All missions have multiple potential uses for UxS capabilities;
  • Persistent surveillance would be the most widely useful capability, applicable to 6 of the 11 missions;
  • Advanced tracking capability would support select missions in which detection, identification, and tracking of unique signatures are critical to mission success; and
  • Survey and inspection tasks enabled by UxSs, could allow for devotion of more Coast Guard resources to missions requiring direct human intervention such as rescues and drug interdictions.

The exercise of creating such mission/capability matrices would presumably be of value to the Coast Guard as it prioritizes its pursuit of UxS and considers their full potential for in-fleet and force operations. Persistent surveillance is one area where UxS can have a positive impact, but there are potentially many more. Although this first-order mission matrix suggests many potentially beneficial applications for UxSs across mission areas, decisions about where, when, and at what scale (e.g., unit, district, area) to implement these systems will require consideration of various system-level issues such as implications on user tasking, training, data management, and requisite regulatory and policy changes.

Like the Coast Guard’s manned assets, one should expect that unmanned systems will also be shared across missions and used in circumstances where Coast Guard personnel and assets are engaged in, or must be ready to engage in, multiple missions or facets of missions. Hence, even if a UxS can substitute for a manned asset for a given function, an expectation of cost or budgetary savings from such a substitution may be misplaced because the manned asset and personnel will continue to be needed for other purposes not suited to the capabilities of a UxS. For example, although a ScanEagle UAV deployed on a National Security Cutter may enhance persistent surveillance in support of SAR or the interdiction of vessels moving illicit drugs, the cutter’s crew as well as manned helicopters will still be necessary for rescuing survivors, boarding vessels, and apprehending suspects. Assessments of the cost-effectiveness—or “business case”—of individual investments in UxS technologies may be impractical given the shared nature of both the new UxS investments and existing personnel and assets. The Coast Guard will need to find the right balance of UxS and manned systems in the context of its full array of missions and considering different concept

Page 92
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

TABLE 5-2 Unmanned Systems Capabilities That Could Benefit Coast Guard Missions

Statutory Missions Totals (how many missions would benefit from this capability)
Capabilities Port, Waterways and Coastal Security Drug Interdiction Aids to Navigation Search and Rescue Living Marine Resources Marine Safety Defense Readiness Migrant Interdiction Marine Environmental Protection Ice Operations Other Law Enforcement
Persistent surveillance x x x x x x 6
Persistent search x 1
Expansion of search area x 1
Persistent presence (for deterrence or other) x x x x 4
Persistent tracking x x 2
Semi-submersible tracking x 1
Tracking (fish populations, whales, etc.) x 1
Counter-unmanned systems (C-CUAS, C-UUV, etc.) x x 2
Detection x x x 3
Identify targets of interest x x 1
Search and locate aids to navigation (ATON) x 1
Disabling capability—non-lethal x 1
Delivery of equipment or supplies x x 2
LIDAR to make 3D images of target (mapping interior/exterior of ships) x 1
ATON survey x 1
Post storm survey x 1
Page 93
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Statutory Missions Totals (how many missions would benefit from this capability)
Capabilities Port, Waterways and Coastal Security Drug Interdiction Aids to Navigation Search and Rescue Living Marine Resources Marine Safety Defense Readiness Migrant Interdiction Marine Environmental Protection Ice Operations Other Law Enforcement
Ice survey x 1
Annual required inspections (hull, buoy chafe) x 1
Inspections: vessels (tank bottoms, shell plating thickness, confined spaces) x 1
Inspections: stack gas emissions x 1
Visual pre-screen prior boarding x 1
Boom deployment x 1
Fishing gear inspection while deployed x x 2
Fishing vessel speed tracking capability x x 2
Mapping oil/hazardous substances above and below surface x 1
Sample collection x 1
Dispersant delivery x 1
Directional electromagnetic pulse x 1
Page 94
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

of operations (CONOPS). It is reasonable to expect that over time and as this balance is achieved, the Coast Guard’s investments in UxS will yield budgetary savings; for instance, by deploying manned assets and personnel more efficiently in accordance with the new CONOPS made possible by the UxS investments.

In the meantime, system-level analyses are helpful for considering the relationship between capability benefits and costs (in terms of asset procurements, requisite personnel training, data management, and regulatory and policy development) for UxS deployments at different scales. To illustrate, Figure 5-2 depicts the trade-off considerations for systems showing how operational capability benefits but also budgetary impacts would be expected to increase as the scale of UxS implementation increases from single-user, mission-specific applications to district- and area-level implementations for multiple missions in new operational concepts. For example, the use of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and unmanned vehicles (UxVs) that already offer high readiness levels of sensing capabilities can make existing field unit operational concepts more efficient with relatively low-cost implications even when accounting for acquisition costs and considerations for personnel training (see Box 5-1), logistics, support infrastructure, and the like. A good example is a small UAV that increases the efficiency of current field unit operations through expanded surveillance capability. The upfront development and enduring operational cost implications in this case are

Image
FIGURE 5-2 Coast Guard UxS concept trade space.
NOTE: ISR = intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
Page 95
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

relatively small because the system has already been developed, is widely available through commercial industry providers, and because operations can be provided by contractors whose role can be temporary if the system does not achieve its goals. The contractor-owned and contractor-operated model provides the means for experience and exposures to these systems without long-term investments on technology that is rapidly changing.

Advancing the capabilities of UxS to the point where they can be used by field units to execute partial missions with autonomy could substantially increase operational benefits, potentially without proportional increases in

Page 96
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

costs for personnel training because of the systems’ capacity to act independently. For example, a minimally controlled UxV could offer the advantage of a forward deployment capability for situation awareness and partial mission execution with limited demands on the ship’s crew or shoreside personnel engaged in other tasks. The benefit here lies in the use of autonomy to broaden geographic reach and extend endurance beyond human capability, with relatively minimal impact to current Coast Guard operations.

By comparison, a UxS that is implemented at larger scale to potentially benefit multiple missions performed by units across a Coast Guard district or area offers the potential for larger efficiency benefits but also large cost impacts associated with new operational concepts and an increasingly complex operating environment. In this case, the advanced UxS concept might include multiple unmanned vehicles and strategically positioned sensing platforms to provide maritime awareness data and other services via satellite to form an integrated common operating picture. Through the use of artificial intelligence technology, visualization software, and secure communications, the Coast Guard may be able to leverage emerging autonomy technology even further to expand operational efficiency gains.

This trade space framework, which is depicted in Figure 5-3 with several more examples, offers a way for the Coast Guard to begin to assess leveraging different types of UxS at different scales. Indeed, the Coast Guard has started to evaluate the use of UxVs in various mission scenarios and has experienced efficiency gains within these use cases, primarily in the “UxS/ROV as a Sensor System Concept” space. Future operational concepts that include the use of independent unmanned vehicles could see more efficiency gains as assets are deployed to perform some of the more “distant” and “exhausting” tasks. As enabling communications and artificial intelligence technology becomes more widely available, a fully integrated decision support capability could be provided through port security systems or manned-unmanned “system of systems” for maritime domain awareness of larger areas.

A fully implemented manned-unmanned system of systems could involve fleets of gliders checking port security and navigation aids, integrated decision systems that pull data from maritime surface buoys, coastline radars, undersea sensor arrays and open source information, all fused for a common operating picture by Coast Guard area. The Navy’s Oceanography glider fleet operates this way and provides data from around the globe.11 If the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command were gathering that data by manned operations, it would be cost prohibitive. Instead, the glider fleet provides situation awareness under watch by operators at the

__________________

11 J. Ervin. 2016. “CNMOC Updates Defense, Industry Leaders at Unmanned Systems Defense 2016.” https://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=97410.

Page 97
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Image
FIGURE 5-3 System considerations for persistent surveillance capabilities using unmanned systems.

Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. This example illustrates the potential advantage to shifting the balance of manned to unmanned systems from a return-on-investment perspective.

SYSTEMS ENGINGEERING UxS AT LARGER SCALE

As has been noted, the Coast Guard’s use of UxSs to this point has focused largely on systems that perform well-defined tasks and present minimal challenges to integration with current manned operations—a focus that we refer to as the “UxV/ROV as a Sensor System” or “Roomba™” concept. As the Coast Guard seeks to increase and broaden the impact of UxS applications (i.e., move toward the upper right quadrant of the “trade space” in Figures 5-2 and 5-3), integration and systems engineering requirements will multiply and become more challenging. Although not intended to be an exhaustive accounting of these requirements, some examples are presented next.

Life-Cycle Learning, Adjustment, and Management

As the Coast Guard introduces more UxSs, at larger scales, and with increasing system integration it must do so with a well-developed understanding of the workflow design to continuously add operational efficiencies, as

Page 98
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

discussed in Chapter 3. This understanding, however, must be accompanied by decision makers and implementers in the civilian and uniformed ranks who are increasingly conversant in the technical details of application designs and implementations, the cost and lead-time requirement associated with implementations, and both the technical and policy/legal issues that can arise concerning collection, storage, dissemination, and security of information gathered and analyzed by the systems. For example, systems must be designed with an understanding of legal controls on the use of unmanned vehicles, such as the authorized deployments of UAVs in regulated airspace.

Although the development of this knowledge will require time and experience working with UxS technologies and related applications, the Coast Guard can develop operational productivity models to support effectiveness and efficiency assessments associated with the employment of new UxS applications. Importantly, the Coast Guard can tap the experience and expertise of operational partners to develop reusable system workflow and technical designs along with processes and procedures. Indeed, working with partners that bring their systems to bear will require cooperation on many fronts, such in the development of compatible cybersecurity protections—because no partner will want to be the weak link in a system-of-systems configuration.

System-of-Systems Issues

Orders prohibiting federal agencies from buying and using foreign-made UAVs out of concern over cybersecurity12 exemplify the importance of building UxS engineering capacity within the federal government. Concerns about cybersecurity could presumably be extended to prohibit or limit the use of other foreign-manufactured unmanned technologies and their components. Rapid compliance would require the Coast Guard to have detailed, systems-level information about the suite of systems and their components across integrations. The Service would also need the systems engineering and technical skills to make requisite changes to systems and their components to ensure that vital mission capabilities are sustained. Even if the federal government permits foreign-made systems or components, the Coast Guard would need to understand the supply chains for multiple systems to prevent cyberattack avenues.

As a general matter, a systems engineering capability will be needed to institute life-cycle changes to systems and their designs that are motivated by the desire to add new features to UxSs. It is reasonable to expect that

__________________

12 See for instance, the Secretary of the Interior’s ban in January 2020. https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/elips/documents/signed-so-3379-uas-1.29.2020-508.pdf.

Page 99
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

advances in technology will continue to provide—and probably rapidly—significant new opportunities for increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of existing implementations. These opportunities will require operational and technical analyses of options, potentially across multiple or even all Coast Guard missions. The Coast Guard will need the necessary knowledge and readiness to fulfill these needed, systems-level analytic capabilities.

Overall System Design Considerations

Given the potential benefits that would be conferred by the ready and seamless integration of newly available UxS capabilities, the Coast Guard could explore new approaches for fielding advanced systems and new automation components for existing systems. This effort may require strategic planning with the acceptance of some trade-offs, such as

  • Designing systems that are less complex so that they can be more rapidly modified;
  • Developing a strategy for sequential addition of more complex design features to a system so that implementation of earlier available automation capabilities can occur;
  • Delaying selected system testing requirements to occur after operational deployment in order to gain earlier values achieved through new automation;
  • Developing systems in a manner that continuously provides incremental additional capabilities on a short-term basis, funded on a level-of-effort basis;
  • Developing systems that can incrementally exploit artificial intelligence and machine learning methods in order to enhance their performance; and
  • Designing systems that can be more resilient to successful cyberattacks in order to reduce complex cyberattack defense requirements that would need to be added to commercially available automation products.

The U.S. Department of Defense has recognized the importance of taking advantage of rapidly emerging commercial UxS technologies, and has therefore adapted procurement practices to reduce the time required to acquire new capabilities and offers an example of the importance of not only designing systems that can be adapted to benefit from continual advances in UxS technology, but also creating adaptable processes and policies.

Page 100
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×

This page intentionally left blank.

Page 83
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 83
Page 84
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 84
Page 85
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 85
Page 86
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 86
Page 87
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 87
Page 88
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 88
Page 89
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 89
Page 90
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 90
Page 91
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 91
Page 92
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 92
Page 93
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 93
Page 94
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 94
Page 95
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 95
Page 96
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 96
Page 97
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 97
Page 98
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 98
Page 99
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 99
Page 100
Suggested Citation:"5 A Vision and Framework for Exploiting Unmanned Systems." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25987.
×
Page 100
Next: 6 Moving Forward »
Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions Get This Book
×
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

As unmanned systems (UxS) continue to develop and be used by other military services and federal agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard should proceed more aggressively and deliberately in taking advantage of UxS advancements, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The Coast Guard should also produce a high-level strategy with critical goals and actionable steps toward fully utilizing UxS technology, according to TRB Special Report 335: Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions.

UxS technologies include aerial, surface, and underwater vehicles with no human occupants; vehicles that may have a crew but with some level of remote control; and systems that are not vehicles.

As one of the country’s six military services, the Coast Guard also serves as a first responder, law enforcement agency, maritime regulator, and member of the intelligence community. Despite multiple initiatives to explore and assess the applicability of UxS to these areas, the Coast Guard lacks a formal means for identifying, investigating, and integrating systems. Meanwhile, UxS technological advancements continue to accelerate, driven by both commercial and military demands.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!