was originally developed for coastal monitoring, but it can also be used for other tasks such as surveying and mapping, “traveling methodically over an area like a lawnmower to sample key ocean characteristics,” according to WHOI. Falmouth was the site of the 5th Annual Entrepreneur Forum that focused on defining the challenges facing the marine robotics’ industry and framing initiatives that the industry could undertake as a collective to accelerate progress. REMUS is manufactured commercially by the WHOI spinoff company Hydroid, a subsidiary of Kongsberg Maritime. With the potential for so many use cases, the Navy purchased REMUS and decided to use it for mine warfare, an area that has plagued the U.S. forever, Fox said, because mines are very low cost, making them easily accessible for any adversary that wants to cause harm to the U.S. With this in mind, the Navy decided to adapt REMUS for mine warfare. Renaming it Mk 18 Mod 1, the AUV was fielded and proved very successful in helping advance mine warfare. During Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the U.S. Navy used REMUS vehicles to detect mines in the Persian Gulf harbor of Umm Qasr. Navy officers said they preferred REMUS AUVs because each could do the work of 12 to 16 human divers, and they were “undeterred by cold temperatures, murky water, sharks, or hunger,” according to WHOI’s website. Working in partnership with the operational community, the Navy upgraded Mk 18 Mod 1, resulting in Mk 18 Mod 2, which was possible due to the vehicle’s modularity. Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory is also taking advantage of REMUS’ modularity, as it is injecting deep learning algorithms into the vehicle to help identify mines and achieve a lofty goal it has set regarding mine warfare. “Our aspirational goal at APL is to be able to clear a minefield as fast as an adversary can lay it,” Fox said. While aspirational, improving the ability to do the target recognition is a “very, very important first step,” Fox added.
Lessons learned To help “accelerate the United States’ ability to effectively and efficiently monitor ocean activity using autonomous systems,” one Navy alumnus has taken the lessons learned during a prolific career and is implementing them through a company called ThayerMahan Inc. 30
| UNMANNED SYSTEMS | SEPTEMBER 2019
During his 35-year career with the Navy, Mike Connor, the founder, president and CEO of ThayerMahan, rose to the rank of vice admiral. Connor led the U.S. Navy Submarine Force’s move into robotic undersea systems, achieving several milestones along the way, including the first operational deployment and recovery of an unmanned vehicle from a submarine. During the Entrepreneur Forum, Connor described the ocean as “an increasingly crowded place.” Trying to conduct various tasks such as growing and catching food, or harvesting wind energy, has become increasingly difficult against the backdrop of shipping traffic that has gone up about 400 percent in the last 15 years, and the fact that there are a lot of new threats out there. “In order to do all those things in the same space, without having disaster strike, we have to do all those things more precisely and with better information,” Connor said. With that in mind, ThayerMahan focuses on developing systems that that can go to sea for 90 days or more at a time. The company finds vehicles, generally off the shelf, and put payloads on them “to do useful things for what we think will be actual paying customers,” Connor said. When offering fellow entrepreneurs in the room advice on how to establish