The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) and Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] recently agreed to a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) for an autonomous threat tracking system based on unmanned surface vehicles (USVs).

A CRADA is a technology transfer tool that occurs between one or more federal laboratories and non-federal parties where the lab commits resources but not funds to the non-federal entity. This includes committing personnel, facilities, equipment, and intellectual property.

The agreement was made on Feb. 20 and the Navy disclosed it on March 18.

The specific technology under this CRADA is called Threat Tracker. It is an autonomous threat detection system developed by scientists and engineers at the Coastal and Maritime Security branch of NSWC PCD. The Navy describes it as “an autonomous, multi-platform threat detection system that uses radar and sensor technologies coupled with video analytics and machine learning algorithms to detect, track and classify potential threats.”

The tracker is set to be integrated onto an HII USV “to provide a fully autonomous USV escort capable of detecting and stopping a wide variety of threats.”

The Threat Tracker system has been assigned a U.S. Navy case number, which means it is on the way to getting a patent, but no patent license agreement has been developed yet.

“Allowing private industry to license federal technologies is good stewardship of taxpayer money and increases development of commercial technologies, which supports the national defense and economy,” NSWC PCD Technology Transfer Manager Paige George said in a statement.

George said the government gains agility in this kind of setup because it is generally cheaper and less time intensive to have a company license a technology and manufacture on a large scale compared to the time and money for the government to take a program from start to finish. Likewise, the partner gains access to federal resources that could lead to future partnerships or projects.

“The CRADA allows Threat Tracker to not only leverage the latest and greatest autonomous platforms but also provide the opportunity to rapidly integrate our system onto the USV, which will help us to demonstrate how Threat Tracker will be utilized in the future of the fleet. This combining of resources enhances the R&D efforts and capabilities of our system for a faster transition to the warfighter,” Jeremy Johnson, Threat Tracker project manager, said in a statement.

Johnson added that the CRADA allows him to use assets his research and development budget would otherwise not have access to.

“One of the reasons HII has invested in USV autonomous and artificial intelligence technology is to support the Navy’s distributed maritime operations. We’re excited to collaborate with NSWC PCD to further enhance Threat Tracker by merging the capabilities of both organizations,” Brian McKeon, senior director of technology at HII’s Unmanned Systems business group, said in a statement.