Navy Technology Acceleration - Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) and Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) Autonomous Behavior Development
Navy SBIR 2019.3 - Topic N193-A02
Opens: September 24, 2019 - Closes: October 23, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: NAVY TECHNOLOGY ACCELERATION - Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) and Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) Autonomous Behavior Development


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Ground/Sea Vehicles

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMS 406, Unmanned Maritime Systems Program Office

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop autonomous behaviors so that an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) and/or an Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) can respond to a given situation like a manned surface ship or submarine.

DESCRIPTION: The small business should develop software or a combination of software and hardware that would enable a behavior in one of the five classes listed below. The proposed solution can be for USVs, UUVs, or both. The Navy is seeking a broad range of emerging technologies that can utilize machine learning and/or artificial intelligence as potential solutions. This will increase mission capability by allowing USVs and UUVs to perform their missions without communicating with a distant control station. No current commercial technologies exist that have the military applications that the Navy seeks.  Submit no more than one proposal per topic to one of the following Focus Areas: 

1 - Storm Avoidance and In-storm Maneuvering (USV only)
2 - Perception
3 - In-stride Detection of Sensor Degradation
4 - Automated Pattern and Anomaly Recognition
5 - Classification of Surface and Subsurface Vessels

1. Storm Avoidance and In-storm Maneuvering (USV only):  A USV needs to weigh mission accomplishment against potential damage from high seas. Once in a high-seas situation, the best immediate course and speed to minimize vessel motions may not coincide with the best path away from the storm. The USV needs a maneuvering behavior that balances overall mission accomplishment, immediate avoidance of excessive motions, and longer-term maneuvering away from projected high-seas areas.

2. Perception:  A UUV or USV needs to accurately perceive its surroundings in order to accomplish its mission. Behaviors that improve perception could include choosing a course, speed, and depth combination that minimize vehicle vibration or deviations from base course, turning in order to optimize sensor “view” of a given object, closing range to an object, circling an object, or minimizing other power uses to allow maximum power output of a chosen sensor. Other behaviors, or combinations of behaviors, are possible. The optimal behavior may depend on the object of interest, USV/UUV sensor capabilities, and environmental conditions.

3. In-stride Detection of Sensor Degradation:  During a mission, sensor inputs may degrade over time. Novel approaches are sought to detect such degradation and adjust accordingly. Detection of degradation requires determining if changes in environmental conditions or target behavior/type may be the cause. If the degradation is determined to be within the sensor, possible approaches include adjustment or re-calibration techniques, re-initialization of the sensor, or adjusted tactics to compensate for the degraded sensor. The USV/UUV might also have an option to send a snippet of raw sensor data back to a controlling platform for confirmation of a problem by a human operator. Approaches could also include a method for computing the value of continuing the mission with the degraded sensor and comparing it to the value of returning immediately to the host platform or maintenance location for repairs.

4. Automated Pattern and Anomaly Recognition:  During each mission, the USV/UUV will ingest a rich stream of data unlike any previous mission. In a manned submarine, the human operator excels at recognizing patterns as well as anomalies. Novel approaches are sought to enable the USV/UUV to more closely approach that human capability of figuring out what is essentially the same or “normal”, and identifying situations and objects that are both unusual and important.

5. Classification of Surface and Subsurface Vessels:  The USV/UUV will encounter surface and subsurface vessels during its sorties. Novel approaches are sought to solve the problem of classifying such vessels. At the coarse level, a vessel should be classified as friendly, neutral, or adversary; the neutral category would include most merchant, fishing, and pleasure craft. A finer classification could be at the level of vessel type, or even the specific vessel by name or other identifier. Approaches could be based on a single sensor, multiple sensors, analysis of behavior compared to previously learned patterns, or combinations of these. Any solutions that help identify a warship or naval auxiliary that is pretending to be something else are particularly of interest.

Testing will be conducted by the small business in an operationally relevant environment with final testing by the Navy at sea. The product will be validated, tested, qualified, and certified for Navy use in at-sea trials across a wide range of conditions as applicable for the relevant class of problem.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as defined by DOD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been be implemented and approved by the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DSS and NAVSEA in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advance phases of this contract.

PHASE I: NOTE: Please add the Focus Area number you are proposing to as a prefix to the Phase I Proposal title.

Provide a concept to solve the Navy’s problem as stated and demonstrate the feasibility of that concept. The expected product in Phase I may either be software or a combination of hardware and software. Demonstrate feasibility by a laboratory bench test or a limited scale field experiment. As an example, this might use a fixed sensor at a point ashore viewing vessels in a harbor or at sea close to shore, with associated recognition software. (Note: Proposers are expected to include concept feasibility testing as part of their proposals.) Include a high-level description of the proposed approach in a Phase II plan.

PHASE II: Develop and deliver prototype systems that may include hardware and software for testing and evaluation based on the results of Phase I.  (Note: The hardware may be a commercial system, or it could be a Navy-provided system.) Evaluate the prototype at sea, either from a Navy USV, a Navy UUV, or a surrogate vessel. Perform additional laboratory testing, modeling, or analytical methods as appropriate depending on the company’s proposed approach. Provide two prototypes to the Government for testing, at least three months prior to the end of Phase II. Produce a Phase III development plan at the end of Phase II.

It is probable that the work under this effort could be classified under Phase II or Phase III (see Description section for details).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology to Navy use. The final product will be software integrated with Navy-provided hardware, or software integrated with company-provided hardware. The Navy expects companies to support transition to Phase III through system integration, testing support, software and hardware documentation, and limited hardware production if applicable. Possible platforms where the technology will be used include the Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MUSV), the Large Unmanned Surface Vessel (LUSV), the Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV), and the Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV). The technology will meet critical Navy needs in USV and/or UUV operations, as applicable to the class of solution. In Phase III, the product will be validated, tested, qualified, and certified for Navy use in at-sea trials across a wide range of conditions as applicable for the relevant class of problem. Additional software testing will likely also be required to ensure that all applicable conditions can be tested even if they do not occur during at-sea test periods.

All of these solutions have potential for dual use in unmanned or minimally manned commercial ships or UUVs.


1. Prpic-Oršic, Jasna, Parunov, Joško, and Šikic, Igor. "Operation of ULCS-real life." International Journal of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering 6, no. 4, 2014, pp. 1014-1023.

2. Polvara, Riccardo, Sharma, Sanjay, Wan, Jian, Manning, Andrew, and Robert Sutton. "Obstacle avoidance approaches for autonomous navigation of unmanned surface vehicles." The Journal of Navigation 71, no. 1, 2018, pp. 241-256.

3. Liu, Zhixiang, Zhang, Youmin, Yu, Xiang, and Yuan, Chi. "Unmanned surface vehicles: An overview of developments and challenges." Annual Reviews in Control 41, 2016. pp. 71-93.

4. Jiang, Li, Djurdjanovic, Dragan, and Ni, Jun. "A new method for sensor degradation detection, isolation and compensation in linear systems." American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) 2007 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, pp. 1089-1101.

5. Sodemann, Angela A., Ross, Matthew P., and Borghetti, Brett J. "A review of anomaly detection in automated surveillance." IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, Part C (Applications and Reviews) 42, no. 6, 2012, pp. 1257-1272.

KEYWORDS: Heavy Seas Avoidance Software; USV Perception; Sensor Degradation Detection; Automated Anomaly Detection; Automated Vessel Detection; Automated Vessel Classification


Dr. Leah Kelley






Michael Bruch






These Navy Topics are part of the overall DoD 2019.3 SBIR BAA. The DoD issued its 2019.3 BAA SBIR pre-release on August 23, 2019, which opens to receive proposals on September 24, 2019, and closes October 23, 2019 at 8:00 PM ET.

Direct Contact with Topic Authors. From August 23 to September 23, 2019 this BAA is issued for Pre-Release with the names of the topic authors and their phone numbers and e-mail addresses. During the pre- release period, proposing firms have an opportunity to contact topic authors by telephone or e-mail to ask technical questions about specific BAA topics. Questions should be limited to specific information related to improving the understanding of a particular topic’s requirements. Proposing firms may not ask for advice or guidance on solution approach and you may not submit additional material to the topic author. If information provided during an exchange with the topic author is deemed necessary for proposal preparation, that information will be made available to all parties through SITIS (SBIR/STTR Interactive Topic Information System). After this period questions must be asked through SITIS as described below.


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