Panel: Autonomous Systems – Operational Use

Autonomous Systems: Operational Use Special Panel

Tuesday, October 6

With increasing growth of air, surface and undersea autonomous systems, this track highlights the technology challenges, as well as solutions to, sensor development, sensor employment, usage strategies, and data assimilation for research, modeling, and decision aid. The purpose of this special panel is to address the operational challenges and issue across the full spectrum of undersea, surface and airborne autonomous systems relating to oceanographic and meteorological observations. Issues to be discussed include autonomy (obstacle detection and avoidance, adapting to local environment), manpower (skill and realistic manpower requirements), launch and recovery, command & control, real time data exfil requirements, COLREGS, vulnerability to adversaries and maintenance issues. We are approaching this from a national security, public safety and industry perspective.

Moderator: Dr. William Burnett

Dr. William Burnett is the Technical Director to the Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command/ Task Group 80.7. In this role, he provides technical responsibility and oversight for a fleet of six survey ships, 2,000 civilian and military personnel and a budget over $300 Million. Dr. Burnett also serves as a Computational Technology Area Leader in Climate, Weather and Ocean for the Department of Defense’s High Performance Computing Modernization Office.

Panelist: Dr. Todd Holland

Dr. Todd Holland serves as the Distinguished Scientist for Mine Warfare Prototyping at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division. He is an internationally recognized researcher with a extensive publication record and has held multiple leadership positions while working for the Naval Research Laboratory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research Development Test and Evaluation, and under detail to Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. His expertise includes the research and development of unmanned maritime systems and littoral environmental sensing technologies. His present focus is on the use of innovative approaches and acquisition authorities to rapidly develop fieldable prototypes to demonstrate new capabilities and meet emerging military needs.

Panelist: Rob Downs
NOAA Office of Coast Survey

Rob Downs has over 30 years of experience working with marine technology and maritime safety beginning with his enlistment in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1986. During his time in the Coast Guard, Rob served as a sonar technician aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton and as a watch supervisor at the Vessel Traffic Service in San Francisco.

In September 1999, Rob brought is background in sonar systems, navigation safety, and information technology to NOAA’s Coast Survey Development Laboratory in Silver Spring, MD. Initially he supervised the administration of the hydrographic survey fleet’s Unix application and file servers. In 2002, Rob coordinated the upgrade of the fleet’s data storage infrastructure and transition to Network Attached Storage. Since 2004, Rob has been the lead for Coast Survey’s unmanned systems projects, including the test, evaluation, and operational transition of shallow and mid-water Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs).

Currently he is the project manager for NOAA’s efforts to integrate autonomous control systems in traditionally crewed Hydrographic Survey Launches. Upon integration, the Autonomous Hydrographic Survey Launches (AHSLs) can perform seafloor-mapping surveys as either manned or unmanned vessels.

Panelist: Kenneth Sharp
Phoenix International

A Mississippi Gulf Coast resident since 1971, Mr. Sharp worked in unmanned vehicle technology and related ocean engineering fields for over 34 years with the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO). With an extensive knowledge of the ocean environment and its impact to submarine operations, he developed a robust operational Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) survey capability while serving in leadership positions at NAVOCEANO. During his 10-year tenure as a Department Head, he was awarded the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Operations Award, and the Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service citation for his work in the field. Mr. Sharp retired from civil service in December 2011, and then served through 2017 as Chief Operating Officer at CSnet International with an emphasis on ocean observing technologies and subsea ocean sensing networks. Under his direction, the company transitioned from a buoy-based ocean observing system to an integrated powered subsea fiber optic cable network that can provide broadband network support to the growing oil and gas development in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The system was one of the initial commercial adaptations of dual-conductor subsea fiber cables, capable of simultaneously powering subsea ocean observing networks and a high bandwidth subsea communications. Mr. Sharp is an independent consultant providing marketing and management services to the marine technology industry, and is a member of the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society and Marine Technology Society.

Panelist: Dr. Terrance Huntsberger

Dr. Huntsberger has 40 years of experience in the development of perception and behavior algorithms for autonomous unmanned systems, with over 150 technical publications, 4 patents, and 21 NASA Public Offerings (NPOs) in these and other related areas. He is currently the Autonomy Research Lead for Spatial Integrated Systems, Inc. in Virginia Beach, VA where he is part of a team that is developing and testing perception and autonomy algorithms for long duration missions. He recently retired after 20 years from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA as a Principal Member of the Research Staff in the Autonomous Systems Division. He was a Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Driver on both Spirit and Opportunity from 2005 through 2007, and the field lead for the development and testing of autonomy technology leading up to those missions.

Also, while at JPL, Dr. Huntsberger was the Principal Investigator on 12 projects for the Office of Naval Research, DARPA, and NAVSEA PMS 435. He is one of the primary developers of the CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing) autonomous system control software and of the CDAS (Contact Detection and Analysis System) suite of ATR algorithms that have been fielded on a number of US Navy surface and underwater vehicles over the last 15 years. Publications related to the maritime autonomy work include Safe Maritime Autonomous Navigation with COLREGS, Safe Maritime Autonomous Path Planning in a High Sea State, Stereo Vision Based Navigation for Autonomous Surface Vessels, 360-Degree Visual Detection and Target Tracking on an Autonomous Maritime Patrol Vessel, and Intelligent Autonomy for Unmanned Surface and Underwater Vehicles.

Prior to working at JPL, he was an Associate Professor (currently an Adjunct Full Professor) and the Founder/Director of the Intelligent Systems Laboratory in the Department of Computer Science at the University of South Carolina from 1981 to 1998. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE and the SPIE. He received his PhD degree in Physics in 1978 from the University of South Carolina.