Personal tools
You are here: Home Research Trends & Opportunities Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Ocean Engineering and Unmanned Marine Vehicles

Ocean Engineering and Unmanned Marine Vehicles

Aircraft Carriers_011624A
[Four modern aircraft carriers of various types—USS John C. Stennis, Charles de Gaulle (French Navy), USS John F. Kennedy, helicopter carrier HMS Ocean—and escort vessels, 2002.]


- Overview

Ocean engineering is a combination of mechanical, electrical, civil, acoustical, and chemical engineering, coupled with a basic understanding of how the oceans work. 

Ocean engineers design, build, test, and refine instrumentation and equipment that can operate in offshore and/or coastal environments. These instruments must be able to stand up to the wear and tear of frequent use and survive the harsh conditions of the ocean environment (corrosion, waves, currents, severe storms, marine life fouling, etc.) 

Innovations in instrumentation and equipment design made by ocean engineers have revolutionized the field of oceanography, enabling researchers to travel farther offshore and deeper into the sea, and to stay there for longer periods of time. 


- Unmanned Marine Vehicles (UMVs) 

Unmanned marine vehicles (UMVs) are boats or ships that operate on the water's surface without a crew. They are also known as: 

  • Unmanned surface vehicles (USVs)
  • Autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs)
  • Drone boats
  • Drone ships
  • Sea drones

USVs can operate with various levels of autonomy, from remote control to fully autonomous. They can be used to: 

  • Collect oceanographic and atmospheric data
  • Conduct pre-planned missions
  • Make decisions with minimal real-time human input
  • Automatically navigate and acquire data without the need for continual operator oversight
  • Tow seismic cables and larger sensors

There are also unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), which are submersible vehicles that can operate underwater without a human occupant. UUVs can be divided into two categories: 

  • Remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROUVs)
  • Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs)

Autonomous ships are a reality and will likely revolutionize many aspects of shipping and maritime security. 

[Earth - Earth Captured from 35,000 km (22k miles) away by NASA’s GOES-16 satellite on December 23, 2021.]

- The US Navy's Future Fleet and Future Surface Combatant

The US Navy is developing a hybrid fleet of crewed and uncrewed vessels. The Navy's future fleet will include: 
  • Long-Range Unmanned Surface Vessels (LUSVs): These vessels will be low-cost, high-endurance, and reconfigurable. They might carry missiles that a crewed ship could remotely launch.
  • Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles (MUSVs): These vessels will be low-cost, high-endurance, and reconfigurable. They will carry sensing and non-kinetic weapons payloads.

The US Navy's fleet will likely include two USVs: 
  • A smaller USV similar to MDUSV, about 100 to 150 feet long
  • A larger one akin to Ghost Fleet, at about 200 to 250 feet long with greater payload capacity
The Navy's future fleet will provide the sensors and weapons capacity needed for extended ranges. By the middle of this century, up to 40 percent of the fleet will be unmanned.


- Research Topics in Ocean Engineering and Marine Sciences

Operating in the ocean is demanding due to the harsh wave environment, extreme pressure, and limited ability to sustain high data rate communications. The interior of the ocean is undersampled both in time and space, making predictions of the marine environment challenging. Research includes: 

  • Acoustics, instrumentation, sensing, marine robotics, and ocean prediction
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Structural mechanics and dynamics
  • Design, naval construction, and engineering 
  • Ecology and marine conservation
  • Environmental sciences
  • Marine biology
  • Marine geology and geophysics
  • Meteorology
  • Molecular marine biology and ecology
  • Ocean engineering
  • Oceanography
  • Sustainability and coastal management



[More to come ...]


Document Actions