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    Robot Dogs and Drones 3D Mapping ‘Ghost Ships’ with Laser-based Sensors

    Robot Dogs and Drones 3D Mapping ‘Ghost Ships’ with Laser-based Sensors

    Photo By Samira Gibson | Patrick Violante (centered in photo), team lead for Naval Surface Warfare Center,...... read more read more

    Sounds like a sci-fi movie right? But it’s not. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division is testing laser-based sensors on robot dogs or drones as a way to perform battle damage assessment, repair, installation, and modernization – all remotely.

    NSWCPD’s Advanced Data Acquisition Prototyping Technology Virtual Environments (ADAPT.VE) engineers and scientists are testing new applications for light detection and ranging (LiDAR) to build 3D ship models aboard the ‘mothballed’ fleet of decommissioned ships at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

    The ADAPT.VE team provides research, experimentation, development capabilities, and innovative engineering techniques, along with unique materials, tools, and resources for various naval organizations. This team of engineers and researchers has addressed pressing obsolescence challenges and has taken on projects such as reverse engineering and prototyping in addition to 3D laser scanning of engines, docks, and ships.

    A static training event was held on board the decommissioned USS Boone at the Philadelphia Navy Yard this past spring. The ADAPT.VE team was testing new technology incorporating 3D data sets using aerial imagery captured by drones, 3D laser scanning technology, and a robot dog named “Spot” developed by Boston Dynamics. The event was conducted as part of a LiDAR-focused megaproject funded by the Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) program.

    NISE was established by the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Military, to provide a mechanism for funding research and development within the laboratories of the Department of Defense. The goal of the program is to grow the internal technical capabilities of the workforce through research projects, technical training, and other workforce development innovations. The NISE program also fosters creativity and stimulates exploration of cutting edge science and technology; serves as a proving ground for new concepts in research and development; and supports high-value, potentially high-risk research and development.

    The cross-warfare center collaboration, called megaproject, involves NSWCPD, NSWC Port Hueneme and Carderock Divisions, and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific.

    Together, the warfare centers are working to develop 3D models of entire ships from LiDAR scans. The 3D models will be used for battle damage assessment, repair, installation, modernization, and for other fleet applications.

    With the use of LiDAR technology to develop 3D ship models, the megaproject partners aim to minimize the need for engineering teams to travel to the ships.

    It will allow additional remote support including virtual ship checks, reducing response times to casualties and maintenance issues faced by the fleet at sea.

    “Putting LiDAR on drones and robot dogs gives a way to map the scene with a machine,” explained Patrick Violante, team lead of the ADAPT.VE Lab.

    Lidar scans objects in 3D by striking laser beams on them and then measuring the duration of their return. This technology can be used for capturing broad network or cloud of data points and then stitching together scans from different perspectives to create precise 3D representation of the object.

    “Ultimately, our aim is to continuously provide our fleet and our people with the tools, resources, and information to more effectively and efficiently carry out their missions,” Violante said. “As we mature the technology, the concept will demonstrate the value of 3D scanning for battle damage assessment and repair, and assess the ability for operational unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in theatre to fill critical roles.”

    “The former USS Boone (FFG-28) was preparing for a static detonation where they were sinking it to be used as a coral reef. We saw it as a great opportunity to demonstrate new technology to demonstrate 3D laser metrology for battle damage assessment. We were able to baseline scan the ship in its ‘as is’ condition. We would then have another opportunity to re-scan the ship after a damage situation. We could then analyze the baseline data and damage information and do a comparative analysis. It provided the opportunity to test different technologies to capture data more efficiently and effectively,” Violante said.

    Rover move over! These dogs are here to stay. The warfare centers are testing both the Boston Dynamics Spot mobile robot system and Ghost Robotics Quadrupedal Unmanned Vehicles (Q-UGVs) to explore cutting-edge technology and enhance capabilities.

    “We are doing a lot of technology integration of imagery sensor packages to put the robot in a situation where we don’t really want to put a human in. These systems are designed to minimize human exposure to danger,” Violante said.

    “Imagine being able to see the components of a potentially dangerous situation in live 3D without having to survey the ship,” he added

    Collaborations with the ADAPT.VE Lab go beyond a robotics test site on a decommissioned ship as the warfare centers’ overarching goal is “One team working together to provide value for the Navy.”

    Negotiations are underway for sharing both technology and resources, such as the mothball fleet, with Liberty Tech Bridge - a program designed to bring together regional government, industry, and academia to expand an ecosystem focused on innovation, enabling local members of all three naval systems commands --Naval Air Systems Command, Naval Sea Systems Command, and Naval Information Warfare Systems Command -- to partner effectively with industry and academia in the Philly-area – “increasing collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovation with leading-edge tech companies and innovation partners to accelerate solutions to the warfighter,” stated NSWCPD Commanding Officer Capt Dana Simon, during the Liberty Tech Bridge charter signing on May 3, 2022.

    Philadelphia’s Mothball Fleet

    As U.S. Navy ships get too old or too expensive to operate they are decommissioned from active service, however, they may still be useful for engineering research and development. Many of these are kept around the country in reserve fleets called Ghost Ships or Mothball Fleets. When a ship is kept in reserve or "mothballed" the basic ideas are to keep the ship afloat and in a sufficient state so that the ship can be reactivated quickly in an emergency.

    One of the largest reserve or mothball fleets is in Philadelphia. It holds several dozen inactive warships including Ticonderoga class cruisers, Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates, Forrest Sherman class destroyers, gunboats, and numerous supply ships. Most of these ships are stricken and are to be disposed. Having access to these ships for engineering development presents an unprecedented opportunity.

    NSWCPD Engineer Mike Lavery who leads the Liberty Tech Bridge project stated, “We have a Fiscal Year (FY)-23 program to provide venues to industry and academia to evaluate technologies for Navy problem sets on the mothball fleet at the Navy Yard. The wide range of ships at the Navy Yard would allow these engineers to navigate these ships for algorithm experimentation on all kinds of projects, not just a robotics study.”

    Violante stated that the goal of the initial tests on Boone were to determine the adaptability of the robot dogs on a stationary ship.

    “Can a robot navigate a ship, go up ladders or handle the logistics like moving materials? The biggest problem is simulating conditions on a vessel at sea. We have the stationary ships in the basin; our tech partners at NAWCAD Lakehurst have a deck motion ship simulator that simulates various sea states,” he said. “By sharing and advancing the technology with our Tech Bridge partners, we advance our capabilities and technologies to remain prominent leaders of the free world.”

    Violante added, “Our vision for future naval power is one based on faster development of unmanned, autonomous systems, with vibrant partnerships with industry and academia. We are looking at better ways where we can take this technology, mature it, and develop repeatable algorithms that we can transition to our shipyards and regional maintenance centers. We are looking at unmanned systems of the future. The knowledge and subject matter expertise that our team is gaining is immeasurable.”

    “NSWCPD continues to be a key player in this effort to retain the American advantage. Our successes are predicated by and built upon a foundation of the expansive relationships we sustain,” Violante said.

    NSWCPD employs approximately 2,800 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 08.30.2022
    Date Posted: 08.30.2022 11:05
    Story ID: 428306
    Location: US

    Web Views: 750
    Downloads: 0

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