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Autonomy for Surface Ship Interception

Mirabito, C., D.N. Subramani, T. Lolla, P.J. Haley, Jr., A. Jain, P.F.J. Lermusiaux, C. Li, D.K.P. Yue, Y. Liu, F.S. Hover, N. Pulsone, J. Edwards, K.E. Railey, G. Shaw, 2017. Autonomy for Surface Ship Interception. In: Oceans '17 MTS/IEEE Aberdeen, 19-22 June 2017, In press.

The optimal interception of ships sailing on the ocean surface has numerous applications, including search and rescue operations, inspections of ship’s hulls, ship repair and refueling, naval operations and planning, and recovery of underwater platforms. Interest in utilizing autonomous undersea vehicles (AUVs) for these operations has been increasing in recent years. In that case, the optimal recovery of these underwater vehicles by surface ships is also crucial. The time-sensitive nature of these operations render the search for an optimal route from a given point of deployment to a (possibly moving) target of paramount importance. However, numerous factors, including complex coastal geometry, time-varying and complicated currents, and a moving ship wake (further disrupting the local near-ship currents) make this a very challenging problem. Our present research motivation is thus to apply and extend our theory and schemes for optimal path planning of autonomous vehicles operating for long durations in strong and dynamic currents to the optimal interception of surface vessels. The long-term goal is to develop autonomy for AUVs to enable intercept and proximity operations with underway surface vessels, predicting and optimally using dynamic wakes, surface waves, and underwater currents. After extending our time-optimal path planning to the ship interception problem, we study a set of simulated experiments for the Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound, and Elizabeth Islands region in Massachusetts. We combine realistic data-assimilative ocean modeling with rigorous time- optimal control and simple ship and wake modeling. To show the versatility of the autonomy approach and also illustrate how it is needed even for the simplest of the cases, we consider several different scenarios: environments with no flow at all but with several straits, cases with time-varying currents, and finally proximity operations considering the effects of ship wakes. We extended our time-optimal path planning to ship interception and illustrated results for varied scenarios in the southern littoral of Massachusetts for varied ship and AUV speeds, start locations, and behaviors, with and without currents, and with and without ship wake effects.