Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
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36 Proceedings Summer 2015 www.uscg.mil/proceedings They support government agencies such as the Department of Defense and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but they have their roots in academia, pri- marily in oceanographic research and environmental moni- toring. In addition, commercial concerns use them for a wide range of applications, including surveys, critical infrastructure inspection, and salvage. The oil, gas, and mineral sector in particular is poised to become the most prolifc UMS employer for a variety of applications, including survey- ing, exploration, monitoring, asset protection, and risk mitigation. Challenges With UMS modes of operation ranging from fully autono- mous (no operator in the loop), to semi-autonomous (opera- tor has advisory/override control when in communications range), to remotely operated (operator in full control via tether or uninterrupted communications link), the issues of the vehicles' inherent ability to avoid collision and of operator qualifcation come to the fore. It must be said that attempts to categorize the "levels of autonomy" for classif- cation purposes in the unmanned air domain have proved diffcult. The general consensus for now is that control is an important consideration, but frm autonomy level classifca- tion is not yet required, nor is it practical. As far as operator training and certifcation is concerned, should the good Captain Johnson hold certain licenses and qualifcations beyond those he already possesses as a licensed captain of a manned vessel? Should military and commercial unmanned maritime systems operators be Questions Are Unmanned Maritime Systems Vehicles or Vessels? If a UMS is considered a vessel, then International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) would apply, but if a UMS is legally classifed as a "vehicle," then operators would not be required to comply with COLREGS. From a U.S. legal perspective, the Supreme Court notes that a "vessel" includes "every description of watercraft or other arti- fcial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water." 1 Arriving at a determination that unmanned maritime systems are vessels would pose signifcant challenges and raise many more questions. For example: Are marine instruments and powered buoys then also vessels? The current consensus is that it is prudent to continue discussions aimed at allowing unmanned maritime systems to operate within the structure of existing COLREGS. Are unmanned maritime systems entitled to a preferred status under Rule 18 (Responsibilities Between Vessels)? If unmanned maritime systems are considered vessels, this would raise an additional question of whether they should have status as "privileged" or "burdened," when risk of collision exists. For example, how will current requirements for proper lookout, lighting, sound signals, and conduct in restricted visi- bility be implemented for unmanned maritime systems? Again, fowing from a determination that COLREGS should apply to UMS, compliance with these requirements and duties would become technical and operational challenges for system designers and UMS operators. Some specifc questions within this area of inquiry include: • What constitutes a proper lookout for an unmanned mari- time system? • How would a UMS answer a bridge-to-bridge call or sound signal? • How will a semi-autonomous unmanned maritime system operate when there is a loss of communications? • How do operators account for any communications delay to a remote operator/monitor? • What is the impact of the environment upon operations? (Such as restricted or impaired visibility or transmission interference.) • What distinctive lighting scheme, if any, should be employed to clearly identify UMS? Endnote: 1. See U.S. Supreme Court No. 11-626: Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida. Unmanned maritime systems can be designed according to Parts C and D of the COLREGS. For UMS to behave according to Part B rules requires sensory and cognitive capabilities. Courtesy of Dr. Jens-Olof Lindh at Saab Kockums Solutions. Unmanned Maritime Systems