MUSCLE deployment 400

NRV Alliance participated in the French-led exercise Olives Noires 2016.

From 15 to 28 September 2016, the NATO Research Vessel Alliance, operated by the Italian Navy for the NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) based in La Spezia (Italy), is taking part for the first time in exercise Olives Noires 2016 in the Mediterranean sea, off the French coast. Olives Noires 2016 (ON16) is a live exercise involving NATO, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek and Slovenian naval units. The aim of the exercise is to enhance operational readiness levels and multinational cooperation training between NATO and French maritime forces in tactics and procedures in the littoral environment.

The primary purpose of the CMRE experiment in Olives Noires 2016 is to test solutions and advance methods for using robotics in mine countermeasures (MCM). Conventionally, the different phases of MCM (search, detect, classify, reacquire and identify) are performed in sequence making this a time-consuming effort. For the first time, CMRE is conducting specific experiments in which multiple robots tasked with different goals work in the same water space simultaneously to demonstrate an accelerated MCM timeline. In practice, experimental autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), including the MUSCLE prototype developed by CMRE, are being deployed together to detect, classify and identify simulated naval mines on the seafloor, using their automatic behaviour capabilities. As part of this work, new methods for allowing the vehicles to localise themselves better and new types of sensors are also tested.

In the future, these robots will not only be intelligent and able to take autonomous decisions, but also capable to coordinate actions in groups by simultaneously carrying out different multiple complex tasks and thus resulting in quicker surveying solutions. The ongoing initial experiments to support the research and operational analysis include close collaboration with universities from Girona (Spain) and Heriot-Watt (UK). Additionally, experiments are being conducted in conjunction with the conventional MCM vessels from multiple nations participating in ON16, to compare the performance of robots with legacy systems and assess practices for joint operations.

The outcome of this research will ultimately result in increasing the capabilities of the NATO Alliance in the MCM field. CMRE also aims to demonstrate that having more localised and specialised autonomous equipment the overall mission performance of a system-of-systems will increase.

The exercise was presented to the press on 20 September 2016 on board BCR Somme off the coast of Toulon. CMRE Scientist in Charge for ON16 experiments, MCM Programme Officer and NRV Alliance First Officer participated.

Download the pdf press release .