Cool Capabilities: Sea Hunter, Tern on Display at Sea-Air-Space
(Source: Office of Naval Research; issued March 21, 2017)
Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned ocean-going vessel, getting underway on the Williammette River in Portland, Oregon. (USN file photo)
ARLINGTON, Va. --- Advanced software that can transform existing medium-sized vessels into unmanned ships able to autonomously complete naval missions. A four-legged, bio-inspired robot that can perform reconnaissance or dispose of explosives safely. A drone that merges the flying capabilities of a helicopter and airplane.

These are just a few of the technologies the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) will showcase at the 2017 Sea-Air-Space Exposition, to be held April 3-5 at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

"The Navy League's Sea-Air-Space Exposition provides a great opportunity to share information between representatives of the services, industry and academia, while showcasing ONR's cutting-edge research and technology programs," said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. David J. Hahn. "These partnerships will be crucial to maintaining our nation's lead in technology development, particularly in the areas of distributed lethality, unmanned systems and cyber defense."

Program officers from ONR and NRL will be on hand in the booth to discuss their pioneering work and potential research opportunities. Some of the breakthrough technologies to be highlighted include:

-- Medium-Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel (MDUSV): Attendees can view a detailed, four-foot model of Sea Hunter, the test platform for the MDUSV autonomy software, which was developed in partnership between ONR and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The MDUSV software will enable future unmanned, autonomous ships to better counter mines and track submarines, travel for longer periods of time without refueling, and use anti-collision technology which complies with maritime law and regulations for preventing collisions at sea.

-- MeRLIn (Meso-scale Robotic Locomotion Initiative): MeRLIn is a bio-inspired, 10-pound robot designed to jump and climb. Hydraulic-powered, the robot may one day conduct scouting, reconnaissance or explosive ordnance missions for Marines.

-- Tern (Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node): Attendees can see a model of Tern, a versatile flying scout drone developed by ONR and DARPA. Tern can perch on ships, even those without runways, and take off vertically like a helicopter before transitioning to plane-like horizontal flight in midair.

Sea-Air-Space is hosted by the Navy League of the United States with the goal of bringing together leaders from defense organizations -- both government and private industry -- to learn about and view the most up-to-date information and technology related to maritime policy.

In addition to Sea-Air-Space, the Gaylord will host the Naval Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Exposition, April 2, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Hahn will address the audience at 1:15 p.m. to discuss the importance of education and the need for a STEM-educated workforce.

The Naval STEM Exposition, co-sponsored by ONR and the Navy League STEM Institute, is free and geared toward students in grades six through 12. It will provide middle and high school students with an introduction to naval STEM careers and applications through guest speakers and hands-on activities.

Running concurrently with Sea-Air-Space is the Navy Forum for SBIR/STTR Transition (FST), which also is scheduled April 3-5 at the Gaylord. FST connects technologies funded by the Navy's Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs with government acquisition and technical personnel, as well as other potential partners.

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