WASHINGTON — L3Harris Technologies, the 10th largest defense contractor by revenue, and BigBear.ai, an artificial intelligence company, are partnering on products to support autonomous surface vessels, a key component of the U.S. Navy’s playbook for the future.
As part of the cooperation agreement announced May 9, BigBear.ai will supply L3Harris with its computer vision, predictive analytics and related applications in a bid to improve manned-unmanned teaming on the water and the identification and classification of foreign vessels.
The capabilities will be combined with the existing L3Harris ASView system, developed for autonomous and remote control of uncrewed vehicles. ASView has been in continuous development since 2008, according to the company, and has been deployed on more than 100 newly built and retrofitted ships.
“Our advanced AI capabilities enable autonomous vessels to operate with unparalleled efficiency and safety, supporting higher-risk missions, expanding operational reach, and, most importantly, saving lives,” BigBear.ai CEO Mandy Long said in a statement. “As the battlespace evolves, autonomous systems will play an increasingly significant role. We look forward to the limitless possibilities that lie ahead.”
The Navy and Marine Corps are betting big on unmanned tech — in the air, on the water, beneath the surface — to broaden their field of view and to stay engaged for longer periods of time, including in regions thought too dangerous or understaffed.
Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday has said that unmanned platforms will deploy alongside carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups in the next four or five years. Brig. Gen. David Walsh of Marine Corps Systems Command last month said the machinery will shake up how people, weapons and supplies are moved around battlefields.
Both companies have worked with the Navy’s Task Force 59, a group established to quickly integrate AI and uncrewed systems into at-sea operations.
The task force at the end of last year wrapped Digital Horizon, a three-week experiment in Bahrain. The event included 15 so-called advanced systems, 10 of which operated in the Middle East for the first time.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.