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Collaboration Advances Unmanned Systems Development Expertise
November 27, 2017

A collaboration between Old Dominion University (ODU) and the Naval Surface Warfare Center is advancing ODU’s unmanned systems development expertise and providing additional opportunities to partner in the Navy’s unmanned surface vehicle (USV) research.

Research Professor Yiannis Papelis (center) and his students with their unmanned vehicle at VMASC. Photo courtesy of Old Dominion University.

In July, ODU researchers, engineering students and engineers from the Navy Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division Combatant Craft Division (CCD), met at ODU’s Marine Support Facility to assemble a Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel to launch the university’s USV development project.

According to information, the Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel, more widely known as a WAM-V, was donated to ODU by the Office of Naval Research via the Foundation of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Under the leadership of Yiannis Papelis, research professor at ODU’s Virginia Modeling Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), engineering students are transforming the WAM-V, a lightweight, easy-to assemble, catamaran, into an USV with capabilities such as launching and docking on its own, recognizing objects and navigating in complex environments.

The project is part of ODU’s ongoing relationship with the CCD’s Unmanned Surface Vehicle Navy Lab. The lab provides a collaborative environment for Navy laboratories and warfare centers and their partners in academia and industry to develop autonomous capability for sea surface craft.

One of the project’s goals is to have ODU students compete with the WAM-V in the 2018 International Maritime Robot-X Challenge, an international competition held biennially. The challenge is designed to develop maritime autonomy, and it includes aerial and submersible tasks to broaden students’ exposure to robotics applications and technologies.

The USV project already has garnered the attention of ODU alumnus Johnny Garcia, president and CEO of SimIS, a Hampton Roads software company that is a pioneer in the modeling and simulation community. SimIS recently provided $50,000 to support the development of the WAM-V. The ODU USV project team is seeking additional sponsorship to fully fund participation in Robot-X.

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