Production-Ready, Inexpensive, Maritime Expeditionary (PRIME) Small Unmanned Surface Vehicle (sUSV) and Collaborative Intercept Capability
The ocean covers more than 70 percent of the world’s surface, and maritime transit is the backbone of international commerce. Waterways and shipping routes help provide for the freedom, prosperity, connectivity, and security of the billions of people who inhabit our planet. Fair and unimpeded access to the global maritime commons will remain vital throughout the 21st century, and fielding advanced ocean-going vehicles can help ensure freedom of navigation, not only for the United States, but also for our allies and partners across the globe.
The Department of the Navy has an operational need for small Unmanned Surface Vehicle (sUSV) interceptors, capable of autonomously transiting hundreds of miles through contested waterspace, loitering in an assigned operating area while monitoring for maritime surface threats, and then sprinting to interdict a noncooperative, maneuvering vessel. Interceptors will need to operate in cohesive groups and execute complex autonomous behaviors that adapt to the dynamic, evasive movements of the pursued vessel.
The Department intends to swiftly prototype and demonstrate one or more sUSV interceptors, aligned with robust commercial capacity to manufacture and deliver these sUSVs at scale. Additionally, to enable sUSV interceptors to seamlessly cooperate in groups, this Area of Interest seeks solutions for dynamic multi-agent optimization and unmanned systems collaboration through software and/or hardware, allowing a group of sUSV interceptors to coordinate their individual movements and behaviors during execution of a shared task or mission. After Government reviews and evaluations are complete, the Government intends to recommend specific pairing arrangements between the selected sUSV interceptor solutions and the selected collaborative multi-agent autonomy solutions.
Small USV Interceptor Solution Attributes
Submissions shall include detailed information regarding the five attributes of primary focus (production readiness, vehicle performance, sense-and-avoid, autonomous intercept, and acceptance of collaborative multi-agent autonomy solutions):
- Production readiness: Of essential importance is readiness for high-rate production (10 or more vehicles per month, 120 or more vehicles annually) beginning in spring 2025. Vendors selected for a prototype Other Transaction agreement may be expected to support a manufacturing readiness assessment at their production facility. Compelling solutions will need to demonstrate a diversified and resilient manufacturing supply chain for key components such as hull, propulsion and steering, electric power, sensors, and compute, with the ability to justify production readiness and to elucidate supply chain risk areas. Submissions should include information on current production facilities and workforce, current production constraints, and any projected production expansion and/or investment.
- Vehicle performance: Vehicles must be capable of operations in blue-water ocean environments. Desired performance characteristics include a range of 500-1000 nautical miles in moderate sea states while transporting a payload of 1000 lbs, using diesel fuel. Vehicles should be able to loiter for several days while maintaining adequate fuel reserve for return transit, and be able to sprint at 35 knots or faster in low sea states when the mission dictates.
- Sense-and-avoid: Autonomously and safely avoid maritime hazards and collisions with vessels, including during low visibility conditions and/or in a GNSS-denied environment, and safely continue the mission if communications with an operations center or control station are interrupted or lost.
- Autonomous intercept: Autonomously navigate to user-defined waypoints, autonomously follow or shadow a vessel of interest, and autonomously intercept a noncooperative, maneuvering vessel, including in crowded shipping lanes or in a GNSS-denied environment.
- Acceptance of collaborative multi-agent autonomy solutions: sUSV solutions must be able to readily integrate third-party software and/or hardware for collaborative intercept capability, whether Government-furnished or commercial, by using open architectures, standardized or common interfaces, or other methods.
Secondary (highly desired) attributes:
- Carry a readily-deployable sUAS to help search for and localize vessels of interest as well as for other supporting missions.
- Automatically adjust emissions control (EMCON) posture when in the vicinity of specific vessels and aircraft, or in specific geographic areas. Successfully search for, localize, shadow, and intercept a noncooperative, maneuvering vessel of interest using techniques and sensor modalities that minimize probability of detection.
- Diversified, redundant, and adaptive communications, such as high-bandwidth commercial SATCOM, 4/5G, IP-based radios, and machine-to-machine data links and mesh networks, allowing for collaboration with proximate sUSVs and other unmanned systems, as well as for status reporting with a distant operations center or control station. Resilience to radio frequency jamming of communications and sensors.
- Report with high accuracy the tracks of vessels of interest to an operations center or control station, with minimal track splitting or false positives.
Tertiary (additionally desired) attributes:
- Automated contact recognition for classifying and identifying surface vessels of various types, to include recognition of hull shape, superstructure, masts, and hull markings such as letters and numbers.
- Ability to accept a variety of modular payloads, sensors, and effectors through compliance with the Unmanned Maritime Autonomy Architecture (UMAA) standard, the U.S. Special Operations Command modular payload standard, and/or common commercial standards and interfaces.
- Intuitive and ruggedized user interface for mission planning and for vehicle command and control; interface suitable for a human operator in an expeditionary location, including aboard a ship or a small craft in moderate sea state.
- Flexibility with a variety of launch and recovery methods, such as amphibious ship well deck, deck crane/boat davit, or boat ramp, and the ability to be easily and safely transported by land, sea (including tow from a small craft), and/or air, without the need for considerable platform-specific handling or transport equipment.
- Compatibility with long-term storage inside an intermodal shipping container, with the ability to quickly prepare and deploy the vehicle for high-tempo operations.
- Ease of export to U.S. allies and partners in accordance with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and other exportability statutes and regulations.
For sUSV interceptor solutions, partnerships and teaming arrangements are encouraged, to allow for the strengths and specializations of individual companies to be integrated toward a complete and compelling vehicle that is production-ready, inexpensive, and operationally effective. For instance, established marine craft manufacturers with active, resilient, high-throughput production lines are invited to partner with companies that develop and integrate the multimodal sensors, compute, and platform autonomy required to create a sUSV.
An individual company is not limited to involvement in only one sUSV interceptor submission, so long as each submission is substantively unique. If submitting as a team, the first page of the submission must clearly list each company involved and the primary point of contact for the entire team.
Only complete sUSV interceptor solutions will be accepted. Partial solutions (e.g., a boat that is not autonomous, or an autonomy retrofit kit or sensor that is not part of an integrated vehicle) will not be considered. Solutions should be sufficiently mature; vehicles may be expected to appear on a range to participate in a seakeeping and vehicle performance assessment and/or a platform autonomy demonstration (for sense-and-avoid and autonomous intercept) as soon as 30 days after award.
Collaborative Multi-Agent Autonomy Solution Attributes
The second solution sought in this solicitation is specialized software and/or hardware for collaborative intercept capability. This solution should:
- Provide each sUSV with the ability to execute adaptive, cooperative behaviors and deconfliction with proximate sUSVs, including in crowded shipping lanes or in a GNSS-denied environment, and especially as related to shadowing or intercepting a noncooperative, maneuvering vessel of interest.
- Allow a group of sUSV interceptors to cooperatively and efficiently search for and localize a vessel of interest, especially using techniques and sensor modalities that minimize probability of detection. Correlate observations from among the group of sUSVs, and report with high accuracy the tracks of vessels of interest to an operations center or control station, with minimal track confusion, track splitting, or false positives.
- Allow a group of sUSV interceptors to autonomously respond and adapt to a vessel of interest performing sudden, dramatic changes in course and speed in an attempt to increase distance from the pursuing interceptors.
- Allow a group of sUSV interceptors to autonomously respond and adapt to a vessel of interest using small craft or bystander vessels in an attempt to forestall intercept or block pursuit.
- Allow a group of sUSV interceptors to autonomously respond and adapt to loss of one or more interceptors due to malfunction or damage, and continue with execution of the shared task or mission.
- Facilitate collaboration among homogenous sUSV interceptors, and furthermore enable teaming among heterogeneous sUSV interceptors with differing performance characteristics, sensors, and communications equipment.
- Readily integrate as third-party software and/or hardware onto a sUSV interceptor solution by using open architectures, standardized or common interfaces, software containerization, or other methods.
A company that develops only the collaborative multi-agent autonomy described in this section should submit its solution brief independently, rather than teaming with another company and its specific sUSV platform.
Agile software development tooling, frameworks, and methodologies are relevant to both collaborative multi-agent software solutions described in the above section and to the single-agent sUSV platform autonomy and automated contact recognition models described earlier. For both solution types, companies should be able to leverage the latest post-mission vehicle data and logs, range telemetry, and/or operational feedback to assess, correct, and/or improve autonomous behaviors and models, and then safely and quickly deploy software updates to fielded sUSVs.
Prior Demonstration and Fielding
Preference may be given to companies that can provide evidence demonstrating capability in relevant and/or representative environments and show experience in successfully fielding solutions into operations. Solution briefs should annotate to what extent specifications and attributes listed in the brief have been verified (e.g., on-water demonstration, hardware-in-the-loop testing, modeling and simulation, analysis, etc).
The first page of each submission should indicate if the submission is a solution brief for a sUSV interceptor or a solution brief for collaborative multi-agent autonomy. A sUSV manufacturer/integrator that also develops its own solution for complex collaboration among autonomous vehicles should respond with a single, encompassing submission.
Companies are advised that any prototype Other Transactions (OT) agreement awarded in response to this Area of Interest may result in the award of a follow-on production contract or transaction without the use of further competitive procedures. The follow-on production contract or transaction will be available for use by one or more organizations in the Department of Defense and, as a result, the magnitude of the follow-on production contract or transaction could be significantly larger than that of the prototype OT. As such, any prototype OT will include the following statement relative to the potential for follow-on production: “In accordance with 10 U.S.C. 4022(f), and upon a determination that the prototype project for this transaction has been successfully completed, this competitively awarded prototype OT may result in the award of a follow-on production contract or transaction without the use of competitive procedures.”
This solicitation will be awarded in accordance with the Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) process detailed within HQ0845-20-S-C001 Defense Innovation Unit Commercial Solutions Opening posted to SAM.gov. In accordance with 10 U.S.C. 4022(d), at least one of the following conditions must be satisfied to enter into a prototype OT agreement: (A) at least one nontraditional defense contractor or nonprofit research institution participating to a significant extent, (B) all significant participants are small businesses or nontraditional defense contractors, or (C) at least one third of the total cost of the prototype project is to be paid out of funds provided by sources other than the Federal Government.
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Potential Follow-On Production Contract for Prototype Other Transaction Agreements
Companies are advised that any Prototype Other Transaction (OT) agreement awarded in response to this solicitation may result in the direct award of a follow-on production contract or agreement without the use of further competitive procedures. Follow-on production activities will result from successful prototype completion.
The follow-on production contract or agreement will be available for use by one or more organizations within the Department of Defense. As a result, the magnitude of the follow-on production contract or agreement could be significantly larger than that of the Prototype OT agreement. All Prototype OT agreements will include the following statement relative to the potential for follow-on production: “In accordance with 10 U.S.C. § 4022(f), and upon a determination that the prototype project for this transaction has successfully been completed, this competitively awarded Prototype OT agreement may result in the award of a follow-on production contract or transaction without the use of competitive procedures.”
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