Autonomous Navy Swarms

Wouldn't it be great if all warfare was accomplished with (non-sentient) robots? I like to think so. In this JPL work, we developed both an infrastructure and artificial intelligence behaviors for making small swarms (3-6 boats) that could autonomously engage in common naval warfare games.

Contributor(s):
David Brown

Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, this JPL project was to build an infrastructure and behaviors for enabling robust autonomous execution of common maritime scenarios. I worked primarily on the autonomous behaviors themselves; the set of actions that the individual boats took under certain missions. The design challenges of this project were quite exciting, and included:

  • Developing individual agent behaviors that emerged to a swarm behavior without any explicit group-level planning. That is, each agent was free to conduct its own behavior, and agents were supposed to act based on their best possible picture of the world right now.

  • Operating in noisy communications and high false positive detection rate environments (is that a big wave or a boat?)

  • Multi-objective agents; it wasn't enough to just patrol an area, but instead the agents had to keep an eye out for intruders, follow-up on potential intruders with closer inspection by alternative instruments, escort friendlies, etc.

Probably the funnest part of this project was sitting on the boats, compiling code on my laptop that I was immediately pushing out to the whole swarm, as we wzoomed across the water (at gut-lurching speed!), them faithfully executing the behaviors I had programmed for them; if we crashed, it was potentially my fault, and if we succeeded at an elegant patrol route without a hitch, it was my doing too.

Writings

Wolf, M. T., Rahmani, A., de la Croix, J.-P., Woodward, G., Vander Hook, J., Brown, D., Schaffer, S., Lim, C., Bailey, P., Tepsuporn, S., Pomerantz, M., Nguyen, V., Sorice, C., & Sandoval, M. (2017). CARACaS multi-agent maritime autonomy for unmanned surface vehicles in the Swarm II harbor patrol demonstration. In R. E. Karlsen, D. W. Gage, C. M. Shoemaker, & H. G. Nguyen (Eds.), Unmanned Systems Technology XIX. SPIE. https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2262067

News
Links

A navy promo video on autonomous swarms