Standoff Command and Control of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs)
Navy SBIR 2019.1 - Topic N191-024
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam -
Opens: January 8, 2019 - Closes: February 6, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Standoff Command and Control of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs)


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Ground/Sea Vehicles

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: NAVSEA 06/PMS-408 (Expeditionary Missions) Low Observable

OBJECTIVE: Develop platform independent data and power transfer material solutions for enabling command and control of inspection class Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) for real-time, human-supervised response operations from safe separation distances.

DESCRIPTION: The ocean environment is one of the most diverse and challenging environment for moving power and data in sufficient capacity (i.e., bandwidth, range, reliability) when human-supervised command and control of inspection class ROVs is required for countering underwater explosive threat objects. Current ROV systems are equipped with physical data and/or power tethers, which due to tether drag and thrust limitations [Ref 1] most notably in higher sea states and water depths over 100 feet of seawater (FSW), overcome the ability of small inspection class ROVs to maneuver to and/or maintain their station relative to targets being investigated. Novel approaches to extend the surface lateral standoff range of ROVs from topside operators beyond that of the physical tether are required with little to no latency for display of streaming video, and sonar and sensor data from the ROV to the operators on the console providing human-supervision, and, when needed, an ability to override autonomy.

Navy Expeditionary forces have a requirement to operate inspection class ROV systems and payloads (e.g., manipulators, diagnostic sensors), at extended standoff distances against targets on the surface down to 1,000 FSW while maintaining human-supervision and, when necessary, taking manual control of ROVs operating in close proximity to underwater explosive threat objects. Minimal latency, standoff command and control solutions are needed that provide a physical separation between the ROV operator and the ROV at: (1) a threshold surface lateral safe separation distance of at least 3,000 yards and an objective distance of 5,000 yards; (2) a threshold surface lateral safe separation distance of at least 5 nautical miles and an objective distance of 25 nautical miles. Recognizing the current state of technology may preclude zero-latency for teleoperation of ROVs, sufficient technical approaches that pursue low latency solutions to maintain viable human-in-the-loop teleoperation of ROVs will be of interest in evaluating proposed solutions.

Tether drag and tether management remain a challenge during operation of ROV systems for response to underwater threats, particularly as ROVs are operated in deeper water and at extended separation distances from topside ROV operators. The Navy has particular interest in technologies that offer a short-range, zero latency material solution for command and control of inspection class ROV with a minimum surface lateral separation of 3,000 yards. This capability is required to enable human-supervised and/or human-controlled precision task execution with the ROV to investigate and/or neutralize underwater threat objects poised in the water column from the surface down to 1,000 FSW. Secondarily, the Navy is interested in a low latency field configurable “add-on” capability to the short-range solution, for increasing lateral standoff to a range of between 5 and 25 nautical miles. Short-range and long-range solutions of interest must be designed as stand-alone (i.e., platform independent) subsystems capable of integrating with the Teledyne SeaBotix vLBV300, and eventually in Phase II, if awarded, with the Next Generation Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Underwater Response Vehicle for testing. The complete solution would be deployed from any craft of opportunity without requiring EOD personnel or craft to manually emplace it for use. Any solution that proposes a physical tether must include an automated tether management system to manage scope length. Proposed solutions must address how DoD cyber security requirements (as defined in DOI 8500.01) will be addressed, and in the case of any wireless components of data transfer, how DoD frequency spectrum requirements will be addressed.

PHASE I: Develop a concept for a fully integrated self-deploying subsystem with autonomous tether management capable of meeting the requirements in the Description. Following the requirements analysis, develop a conceptual design for the short-range subsystem and perform a proof of concept demonstration or relevant bench-top and/or simulation to enable the Navy to ascertain the feasibility of the military utility and supportability of a proposed prototype development effort. The Navy desires an analysis articulating a proposed approach for eventual extension to a long-range solution. Develop a Phase II plan. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop and deliver a prototype system and validate it with respect to the objectives. Develop, design, and fabricate an initial demonstration prototype of a short-range subsystem for integration with the Teledyne SeaBotix vLBV300 and the Next Generation EOD Underwater Response Vehicle. The Phase II effort should also include refinement of the analysis and the modifications necessary to develop a long-range capability.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology to Navy use. Fabricate and deliver a short-range system with all necessary interfaces for operation with the Teledyne SeaBotix vLBV300 and the Next Generation EOD Underwater Response Vehicle.

Commercial applications include for other ROV users, such as DoD Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) remediation teams; Department of Homeland Security activities providing port security functions; underwater repair and construction teams; and law enforcement agencies performing underwater post incident forensics analysis.


1. Crist, Robert D., and Wernli, Sr., Robert L. “The ROV Manual: A User Guide for Remotely Operated Vehicles, Second Ed”. Waltham: Butterworth Heinemann, 2014.

2. Domingues, Christophe, Essabbah, Mouna, Cheaib, Nader, Otmane, Samir, and Dinis, Alain. “Human-Robot-Interfaces based on Mixed Reality for Underwater Robot Teleoperation.” IFAC Proceedings, Volume 45, Issue 27, 2012, pp. 212-215.

3. DoD Instruction Department of Defense Instruction 8500.01, “Cybersecurity”, 14 March, 2014.

KEYWORDS: Remotely Operated Vehicles; ROV; Standoff Command and Control of ROVs; Explosive Ordnance Disposal; Low Latency Human-supervised Controls; Naval Mines; Teledyne SeaBotix vLBV300



These Navy Topics are part of the overall DoD 2019.1 SBIR BAA. The DoD issued its 2019.1 BAA SBIR pre-release on November 28, 2018, which opens to receive proposals on January 8, 2019, and closes February 6, 2019 at 8:00 PM ET.

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