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 November 2005 Feature
John D. Lambert, chairman of ASTM Committee F41, is the director for unmanned systems at Science Applications International Corporation, Arlington, Va. At SAIC, he manages and coordinates the efforts of several divisions engaged in developing unmanned systems across the undersea, air, surface and ground communities. Lambert was elected to AUVSI’s board of trustees in 2003 and now serves as the association’s first vice president.

In November 2004, the U.S. Navy updated its Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Master Plan. This built on the previous UUV Master Plan (April 2000), updating its missions, approaches, and technical and programmatic recommendations based on changes in Navy guidance, technology, platforms, and other factors. The plan detailed nine high-priority UUV missions based on the strategic guidance provided in the publication “Sea Power 21” and its four pillars: Sea Strike, Sea Shield, Sea Base and ForceNet. The nine missions (or sub-pillars), in priority order, are:

• Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance;
• Mine countermeasures;
• Anti-submarine warfare;
• Inspection/identification;
• Oceanography;
• Communication/navigation network nodes;
• Payload delivery;
• Information operations; and
• Time-critical strike.

The master plan update recommended evolving toward four general vehicle classes:

• Man-portable (approximately 25 to 100+ lbs. displacement);
• Lightweight (approximately 500 lbs. displacement);
• Heavyweight (approximately 3,000 lbs. displacement); and
• Large (approximately 20,000 lbs. displacement).

This document also made the following recommendations:

• Continued development of UUV standards and modularity;
• Investment in the critical technologies of autonomy, energy and propulsion, sensors and sensor processing, communications/ navigation, and engagement/intervention;
• Increased experimentation with UUV technologies; and
• Introduction of UUV systems into the fleet, as soon as possible.

In order to implement these recommendations, the Navy sought to engage industry and trade associations for assistance in continuing the development of UUV standards. By adopting a policy of using consensus-based, industry-accepted standards to enable true UUV system modularity, the Navy hopes to achieve significant cost savings and reduce the time to get critical UUV capabilities to the fleet.

Standards Needed

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International is the leading nonprofit unmanned systems industry association. AUVSI traces its roots back to remote-controlled aircraft and has developed into the premier unmanned air vehicle trade association. With the advent of unmanned vehicles operating on the ground, undersea and on the sea surface, AUVSI expanded its role to provide needed advocacy for these unmanned systems.

At the association’s annual conference in August 2004, Rear Admiral Bill Landay, the program executive officer for littoral and mine warfare, asked AUVSI for assistance. Over the next several months, AUVSI leaders met with Admiral Landay’s staff and the Navy’s UUV Program Office, PMS 403, to converge on a plan to assist the Navy in developing the recommended UUV standards. With the Navy making plans to develop a new 21-inch diameter UUV system in the heavyweight vehicle class, the initial focus of their request was to develop standards to support that vehicle class.

Defining the Standards Process and Building Support

AUVSI supported the Navy by organizing and conducting two workshops to facilitate the interaction among key government, industry, academic and nonprofit trade associations. The intent was to gather a broad spectrum of experts, primarily in the heavyweight vehicle class. While AUVSI engages in several outreach and support projects for its members and stakeholders, it is not a standards developing organization. AUVSI and the Navy discussed various options for selecting an organization to develop these standards.

The focus of the first workshop, held in Arlington, Va., on June 7 of this year, was to explore the scope of the desired standards and to solicit participant comments on how the standards development process should be conducted. Two standards developing organizations participated in that first workshop: the Society of Automotive Engineers and ASTM International. SAE has developed and maintains the joint architecture for unmanned systems-standard, which was developed for unmanned ground vehicles; SAE is in the process of expanding that standard to UUV and unmanned surface vehicle systems. ASTM is engaged in developing standards for UAVs. Other organizations, such as the NATO committee that developed NATO standard STANAG 4586 and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, were also considered.

At this workshop, the Navy requested that a set of standards be developed no later than December 2005 to support its planned Mission Reconfigurable UUV System solicitation in early 2006. Based on its ability to meet this very aggressive timeline and its ability to conduct meetings and ballots electronically, ASTM was selected by workshop participants to develop the UUV system standards.

Although the Navy’s initial goal was to focus on the heavyweight vehicle class standards, the workshop participants achieved a consensus that the other three vehicle classes should also be included. This was done to make provisions for inter-class interoperability and to include all the community’s intellectual, technical and business talent.

On June 28, AUVSI sponsored a second workshop in conjunction with its annual conference in Baltimore, Md. This workshop also served as the organizational meeting at which the attendees elected to form ASTM Committee F41 on Unmanned Undersea Vehicles. It was determined that this effort would be best served by the formation of three subcommittees:

• F41.01 on Autonomy and Control Architecture;
• F41.02 on Communications; and
• F41.03 on Mission Payload Interface.

Getting Organized and Developing the Standards

In July, Committee F41 voted to accept a scope and its initial slate of officers. The approved scope of Committee F41 is “the development of standards and guidance materials for unmanned undersea vehicle systems to facilitate an interoperable, modular, and multifunctional family of platforms. The work of this committee will be coordinated with other ASTM committees and organizations having mutual interest.”

From the beginning, the UUV standards effort has sought to include the broadest spectrum of UUV technical experts and those engaged in developing the UUV market segment of unmanned systems.

Ongoing Participation Is Needed

The number of individuals who have stepped forward to participate in the standards development process is impressive. As of October 10, we have 136 members. This shows a significant interest in the work that we have committed to do on behalf of the Navy, industry, academic and unmanned systems community, and more participation is needed.

On Sept. 1, PMS 403 held an “industry day” to engage industry and solicit feedback on the information they provided on the Mission- Reconfigurable UUV System. The Navy’s desire to develop UUV systems that are open-architecture, modular and based on technical standards was the driving factor in forming ASTM Committee F41. The information provided at the industry day confirmed the need for this committee to aggressively pursue its work in meeting a challenging schedule so that the ASTM standards can be available to support this important UUV solicitation.

The committee’s goal is to have three sets of standards fully approved by the end of December 2005. We anticipate that the drafts will be in the balloting process at the time of this article’s printing. All interested parties who have a stake in developing quality UUV standards are invited to get involved and contribute to the standards being balloted for approval.


Committee F41 is off and running. We have a very aggressive plan to meet the Navy’s request for a set of heavyweight UUV-class standards to support the Mission-Reconfigurable UUV System solicitation. We can meet the December 2005 goal assuming we have a quality set of documents as a result of the balloting process.

This is an important and a rare opportunity for all in this community to shape the future of UUV development. Although we are starting with a focused effort supporting the MRUUVS acquisition program, F41 intends to systematically expand its set of standards to support other UUV segments and vehicle classes. These standards are intended to guide the development of UUV systems in order to achieve the desired cost reductions and acquisition schedule acceleration envisioned through open architecture and modularity. They are not intended to restrict the innovation and intellectual development of new academic activities supporting UUV science and technology development. We encourage the involvement of all those engaged in academic research to ensure we have the widest and deepest cross section of talent involved. //

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