Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.
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60 unmanned systems inside October/November 2016 MARINE INNOVATION M arine researchers and operators are combining, stretching and repur- posing unmanned air and marine systems to conduct searches, protect marine life and support commercial operations. Helping lead the way is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency with a wide-ranging mandate to moni- tor the coasts, oceans and waterways as well as provide data for weather forecasts and track climate change. To be sure it was using the most advanced technology, NOA A established in 2008 the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program, which helps NOAA's scientists assess and im- plement UAS where appropriate. "We're basically evaluating UAS (technol- ogy) to see how it would fit in with all the other observations that we have at NOAA," Program Director Robbie Hood said. "Observations are so incredibly important to us—from satellites to ocean buoys to aircraft, ships, weather ra- dar—the whole nine yards." Hood said her office is particularly interest- ed in technology that can be deployed quickly to assess the impact of events like storms (for both pre-storm surveys and post-storm dam- age assessments), oil spills, chemical spills and fast-paced changes in coastal systems. New systems that team UAS with autonomous ma- rine vehicles may give NOAA more options to meet that requirement. Aircraft Carriers for Drones Entrepreneurs and researchers are modify- ing autonomous surface vehicles to carry and recharge unmanned aircraft. These blended systems will extend the range of the rotorcraft by Dee Ann Divis Photos courtesy of Marine Advanced Research and NOAA Waves of Innovation Researchers are finding new ways to use and combine unmanned aircraft with autonomous surface and underwater marine vehicles to monitor coasts, protect fisheries and improve hurricane forecasts. potentially making it easier to conduct long- distance and longer-duration missions. Drone 'aircraft carriers' are going to be the "hot ticket," said Philip McGillivary, science liaison for the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area/ Dept. Homeland Security. McGillivary was involved earlier this year in demonstrating one such system based on the Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel (WAM-V) by Marine Advanced Research. Looking a bit like a water strider, the WAM-V comprises two catamarans that support a platform between them, well above the water. The catamarans move independently from each other and the platform—with springs, shock absorbers and ball joints articulating the vessel and limiting stresses to the structure and payload. "It's like taking an off-road suspension and putting it on a boat," said Mark Gundersen, Ma- rine Advanced Research's president and CEO. "Instead of plowing your way through waves you kind of ride them, like you're riding over bumps." "The platform is independently geniculated," said McGillivary. "Each hull moves indepen- dently and the platform in the middle—which is up off the water, which is what you want— doesn't move at all, even in very high seas." WAM-Vs come in a variety of sizes and work is underway to develop a power source that could enable a drone to f ly out to, say, find a toxic algae bloom or oil spill, map the area then return to the WAM-V to recharge before head- ing out again. Also under discussion are ways to enable underwater autonomous vessels to recharge at a WAM-V, or another similar plat- form, in much the same way. "You can imagine a WAM-V that can deploy both the aerial and underwater assets—bring