HII, Ocean Aero partnership reflects trend of increased integration in uncrewed system hardware and software

US and Egyptian naval personnel discuss the capabilities of a US Mk 18 Mod 1 (HII REMUS 100) uncrewed underwater vehicle at Berenice naval base, Egypt during the International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express activity in April 2022. (US Navy)

US shipbuilder HII and US ocean data collection company Ocean Aero have initiated a strategic partnership arrangement designed to generate advanced maritime uncrewed system capabilities, the two companies announced on 2 March.

Both companies have developed uncrewed vehicle capabilities and autonomy software solutions that they can bring to the partnership. Moreover, the partnership reflects the growing trend amongst Western navies and their supporting industry of producing uncrewed vehicle capabilities enhanced by the use of new software, including autonomy and other areas like artificial intelligence.

In a statement, the companies said they have “recently commenced multiple, simultaneous efforts to enhance the operational reach and duration of the platforms, collaborative autonomy behaviours, shared sensor fusion and perception capabilities, and accelerated seabed-to-shore data transmission methods”.

With navies increasingly focused on using uncrewed underwater vehicles for seabed defence and security, software technologies enabling the rapid transfer of data from the seabed to the surface will offer significant strategic and operational value.

“With rising maritime challenges increasing worldwide, we need new capabilities to meet them,” Kevin Decker, Ocean Aero chief executive officer, said in the statement.

Both companies have established track records of participating in high-profile initiatives and exercises testing and demonstrating maritime uncrewed system platform and software capabilities. For example, in late 2022 Ocean Aero participated in a new US Fifth Fleet-led uncrewed capability demonstration activity, ‘Digital Horizon’. The exercise brings particular focus on improving maritime domain awareness in the Gulf region. HII REMUS vehicles have been deployed continuously to the Gulf since 2013, the statement noted.

The two companies are planning to demonstrate their combined capabilities at an upcoming event in the region, it added.

Over 600 REMUS UUVs have been sold internationally since the early 2000s, with the majority still operational. HII has also developed the Odyssey autonomy software solution, which provides scalable autonomy aligned with open architecture standards.

Ocean Aero developed the Triton autonomous underwater and surface vehicle, which collects and relays data from above and below the surface. The vehicle can carry various sensor and communications payloads.

by Dr. Lee Willet, London