The Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)
has received a $58 million contract with DARPA to construct an
Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vehicle to
chase down evil submarines. Promising a 60 to 90 day stint out in
the water, the ACTUV will track with sonar and other sensors,
and link back to the Navy ship via satellite. It will then follow the
sub to its port or return to its own.
It’s important to note that the contract given is for a
technology demonstration — not a program of record. The
ACTUV will help the Navy mature technologies useful for future
capabilities but is not expected to enter active fleet service itself.
According to DARPA’s ACTUV website, the first completed
phase refined and validated the system concept and associated
performance metrics, completing risk reduction testing to inform
program risks associated with submarine tracking sensors and
SAIC is tasked with phases 2-4 — specifically to design a
vessel (phase 2); build a vessel (phase 3); and test the vessel
(phase 4). Operational prototype at-sea testing is expected in
As stated in DARPA’s press release, the goal of the program
is an “unmanned vessel that tracks quiet diesel electric
submarines for months at a time, spanning thousands of
kilometers of ocean with minimal human input.” The website
adds that an objective of generating a vessel design that “exceeds
state-of-the art platform performance to provide complete
propulsive overmatch against diesel electric submarines at a
fraction of their size and cost.” In other words, the vessel must
be small and cheap, yet robust enough to operate for 80 days and
6,200 km without human maintainance or refueling.
The approach the program takes for propulsion will be
interesting to see develop, as most long-range drone concepts
have relied on solar panels or wave propulsion at the sacrifice of
top speeds. Part of ACTUV’s endurance and speed will come
from the drone’s design. According to
SAIC-built concept uses a trimaran hull for better speeds over
long ranges as opposed to traditional monohull designs.
Additionally, going sans-crew frees up space (normally devoted to
crew-support systems) to fill with more fuel tanks.
24 SERVO 02.2013
BRACE FOR BOT BARF
Until recently, the grossest robot ever was
Ecobot (which poops). This robot is much, much
grosser. Its name is Vomiting Larry, and it's designed
to do one thing: puke just like a human.
Vomiting Larry is a humanoid simulated
vomiting system. He may be the only humanoid
simulated vomiting system in existence, but we
certainly don't need more than one.Vomiting Larry
is doing some important work, though. He's being
used to research the spread of noroviruses, which
cause humans to projectile vomit, spreading the
virus all over the place. Here's a description from
"Vomiting, in particular, transmits infection
effectively. In one incident, a person who vomited
spread infection right across a restaurant; 126
people were dining at six tables where one woman
vomited. Staff quickly cleaned up, and people
continued eating. Three days later, others started
falling ill; 52 people reported a range of symptoms.
More than 70% of the diners on an adjacent table
fell ill; at a table on the other side of the restaurant,
the rate was still 25%."
Noroviruses can be aerosolized in vomit, and
all it takes is a handful of virus cells to infect you.
Vomiting Larry's job is to puke its (lack of) guts
out, and then researchers get to measure how far
the virus travels and at what concentrations over a
variety of surfaces to better understand how it's
Noroviruses are responsible for 21 million
illnesses in the US every year — second only to
the common cold. If you get one, it probably won't
kill you, but you can look forward to nausea,
watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of taste,
general lethargy, weakness, muscle aches, headache,
coughs, and a low-grade fever. Oh, and of course,