As unmanned drones and some ground-based robots are becoming a larger part of the Pentagon’s battle strategy, naval warfare is often regarded as the next vanguard for the robotic revolution. For its part, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking to bring unmanned semi-submerged sub-hunting robots to the fray with the Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV).
It’s noteworthy that this is the first DARPA project I’ve seen that doesn’t have a clever, easily pronounceable acronym.
The ACTUV would loiter out in the ocean for extended periods of time, keeping an eye out for submerged enemy submarines. Once located, the ACTUV would stay on the sub’s tail, sending back vital information to mission planners. But keeping on the tail of those submarines while dodging shipping traffic seems to be the rub of the project, so DARPA has rolled out a nifty video game where you (yes, you!) help crowdsource the best tactics.
The game is called ACTUV Tactics and can be downloaded for free from the ACTUV website. There’s also a leaderboard, where players can show off their sub-hunting skills to the world. Though DARPA seems to keen to get all the data they can about both successes and failures, the software is completely voluntary and doesn’t transmit any information without the player’s consent.
DAPRA has tried its hand at crowdsourcing before, challenging teams to locate ten red weather balloons in 2009 and earlier this year when the defense agency challenged the public to create a better ground combat vehicle. But the the U.K. Register’s Lewis Page, a, 11 year Royal Navy officer, seems to think the whole thing is unnecessary:
Following a sub at close range on active is simple enough. Automated dodging of other surface vessels is, again, quite simple under the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea […] Sure, a wily sub-driver might seek to draw his shadower into a potential collision situation, hoping to force the ACTUV to break off: but the success or failure of this will depend entirely on sonar conditions at the time and the minimum safe passing distance programmed into the ACTUV, not on any cunning tactics.
Necessary or not, for gamers or just the curious ACTUV Tactics is a chance for everyday folk to show off their skills and just possibly be a part of the magic that is DARPA.
(story and images via the Register)
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