SPAWAR, ONR Host Annual Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Competition

Friday, August 08, 2008

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Brian Gaines, , Pacific

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) hosted the 11th Annual International Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition at Naval Base Point Loma in , July 28-Aug. 3. The event was co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
The competition challenged young engineers to design and build autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV). It also encouraged contestants to consider a career in developing AUV technologies for the Navy.
"Competitions such as this are a huge benefit to the Navy," said Capt. Mark Kohlheim, commanding officer, SSC San Diego. "There is a large interest in unmanned vehicles, and these competitions serve to put the theoretical into practical applications for the students involved. Many of the premiere scientists we employ have participated in this competition in the past."
Steve Kopenick, deputy of program development for the ocean systems division of SSC San Diego said the future of the military is in unmanned vehicles.
"Many of the programs that have competitors here today are unencumbered by policy, which in turn can lead to novel approaches and breakthroughs in technology. These are the kinds of scientists and engineers that the Navy, and particularly SPAWAR, is looking for."
During the competition, the unmanned vehicles are required to maneuver an underwater obstacle course that involved passing through a validation gate and following a pre-determined path. All tasks must be performed without communications or control from a person or off-board computer.
"The competition lends itself to real-world applications and problems," said Capt. Jack Nicholson, a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, who was on hand with officers and midshipmen involved in the weapons and engineering systems department. "The hands-on experience and dealing with issues that arise will in turn make the guys here today better officers."
Midshipmen 2nd Class Harry Davies of the AUV built by the noted the challenges of building and operating a vehicle.
"It [the vehicle] has been flooded and even caught on fire. One of the key things I have learned is how much damage this craft can take and still function."
The 's robotics team took top honors at this year's event, earning bragging rights and sharing total prize money of $20,000. The placed fifth in overall standings.

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