The US Navy integrates AI with UAVs to improve communication and security

An aerial drone called the Aerovel Flexrotor incorporated artificial intelligence and unmanned systems during its launch by The Navy and U.S Coast Guard.
Brittney Grimes
An Aerovel Flexrotor UAV takes off from U.S. Coast Guard USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) on Dec. 7, 2022.
An Aerovel Flexrotor UAV takes off from U.S. Coast Guard USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) on Dec. 7, 2022.

NAVCENT Public Affairs/U.S. Navy 

The United States Navy launched an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from one of its ships earlier this month. The task force, known as the U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 59, had previously launched a UAV with the U.S. Coast Guard in 2021. The most recent event, called Digital Horizon, shows an integration of AI with the naval forces.

Digital Horizon will incorporate AI and UAVs

Digital Horizon is a three-week event that has been focusing on integrating new unmanned and artificial intelligence platforms. The event, which started on Nov. 23 and continues until Dec. 15, includes 10 current AI and UAV platforms in the region, that will operate with the U.S. 5th Fleet for the first time.

“I am excited about the direction we are headed,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, said previously in a press release. “By harnessing these new unmanned technologies and combining them with artificial intelligence, we will enhance regional maritime security and strengthen deterrence. This benefits everybody.”

The U.S. Navy performed the naval exercise in the Middle East, integrating artificial intelligence with unmanned systems. On Dec. 7, the U.S. Navy launched an Aerovel Flexrotor UAV from the USCGC (United States Coast Guard Cutter) Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145), a fast response cutter, or Coast Guard sailing vessel 65 feet or longer. There is another UAV called the Shield AI’s V-BAT that the organization will launch, along with the Easy Aerial’s tethered UAV.

Aerovel Flexrotor UAV had successfully taken off and landed from the ship

According to the U.S. Navy, “Emlen Tunnell is one of the Coast Guard’s newest Sentinel-class fast response cutters.” The naval vessel is currently deployed to Bahrain, where the U.S. 5th Fleet is headquartered. The UAV had successfully taken off and landed aboard the ship, showing a collaboration between the Navy, Coast Guard, and the use of AI systems.

“We are so excited to be part of Digital Horizon and play a critical role by helping integrate new technologies into the fleet,” Lt. Patrick Kelly, Emlen Tunnell’s commanding officer, said in the statement.

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The Flexrotor can support intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions (ISR) missions using an infrared camera to provide real-time video throughout the day. It uses a combination of both artificial intelligence and unmanned systems to demonstrate its future potential within the organization.

The UAV can also send video footage and data to command centers, allow for a better communication network to be used by unmanned programs. The U.S. 5th Fleet established Task Force 59 a little over a year ago. Since its launch, the task force has been using AI with the unmanned systems at operational hubs in Jordan and Bahrain.

Task Force 59 is an innovative event that could potentially lead to future discoveries and possibilities within the combined maritime forces. “Each day during Digital Horizon we have pushed to discover new capabilities, fast,” said Capt. Michael Brasseur, commodore of Task Force 59.

“I am so proud of the team for their steadfast commitment to not only imagine new possibilities, but to deliver them.” The U.S. Fleet wants to eventually incorporate AI in their unmanned vessel fleets, while also working with manned vessels in collaborative efforts.