Feeds

Robo-warship sub hunter: Free DARPA crowdsauce game

Crewless Mary Celeste ghost-frigate sonar thrills

The next step in data security

No doubt regular readers will recall the US military's cunning plan to develop unmanned submarine-hunting robotic frigates - warships which would prowl the oceans like automated Mary Celestes, remorselessly tracking enemy submarines regardless of how their pale, sweaty, malodorous captains* might twist and turn.

Screenshot from DARPA's ACTUV game. Credit: DARPA/Sonalysts

What an unmanned frigate looks like from above...

The Anti-submarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) project is intended to produce "an X-ship founded on the assumption that no person steps aboard at any point in its operating cycle". The uncrewed frigate would have enough range and endurance for "global, months long deployments with no underway human maintenance", being able to cross oceans and fight its battles largely without any human input - communications back to base would be "intermittent", according to DARPA.

The ACTUV X-ship has taken on a bit more shape since it was first announced. The vessels themselves are envisioned as being designed for seakeeping qualities rather than easy maintenance or the needs of a human crew, and as such would cruise with their main hull submerged below the surface (and probably beneath any troublesome surface layers of the sort which can impede the performance of normal surface-ship hull sonars). The only part of an ACTUV showing above the waves would be an arch-shaped combo engine-intake/funnel unit, which would also act as a mast for communications and above-water sensors such as radar.

The guts of the submerged pod-hull would be much the same as one finds in a normal frigate: diesel and gas-turbine prime movers driving props via an electric transmission, fuel tanks, sonar for searching underwater. None of this requires much innovation.

What does require innovation, however - at least in the perception of those in charge of the project - is the development of a sophisticated set of AI algorithms to handle the ACTUV without any major help from human operators or fleet commanders. One of the contractors to win an ACTUV development deal thus far is sonar-analysis-cum-games-developer-and-audio-studio firm Sonalysts - perhaps most famous for producing submarine-warfare games such as 688 Hunter/Killer and Fleet Command, or possibly for their sound work with such artists as Aerosmith and Debbie Harry.

Screenshot from DARPA's ACTUV game. Credit: DARPA/Sonalysts

...and from below.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, it has been decided that the best way to hammer out a set of tactics for ACTUVs is to develop a game-style simulation pitting ACTUV against submarine and get people to play it - so crowdsourcing the methods and tactical principles that will then be coded into the robo-frigates' AIs.

The new game - from which these visuals are drawn - is called ACTUV Tactics. The game engine is used in various military sims and in the Dangerous Waters commercial release of 2005. It can be downloaded free in zip format here (323MB). In it, a player tries to find and track an enemy submarine while avoiding collisions with commercial vessels and the like. Various different proposed models of ACTUV robo-frigate are available: Gator, Remora, Seahorse, Shark and Triton. Scores can be uploaded to rankings leaderboards here.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.