Exercise Digital Horizon, a three-week event held in the Middle East, showcased the significant advancements in unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as the integration of artificial intelligence and data analytics for maritime security purposes. The exercise aimed to accelerate technology integration and explore cost-effective alternatives for Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) missions.
Task Force 59, in collaboration with the U.S. Fifth Fleet, organized Digital Horizon to bring together emerging unmanned technologies and cutting-edge hardware to enhance regional maritime security and strengthen deterrence. The exercise utilized 12 USVs and three UAVs, combining them with data analytics and AI to create a comprehensive surveillance and intelligence network.
Captain Michael Brasseur, then-commodore of Task Force 59, highlighted the importance of unmanned maritime vehicles in conducting surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The integration of artificial intelligence allowed for the consolidation of relevant data from multiple unmanned systems onto a single screen, known as a “single pane of glass.” This provided watchstanders in the Robotics Operations Center with a comprehensive view of the maritime environment.
One of the key achievements of Digital Horizon was the ability for one operator to command and control multiple unmanned systems on a single screen. This addresses the Navy’s goal of moving away from the current paradigm of multiple operators and joysticks, reducing manpower costs and improving efficiency.
Digital Horizon also showcased the successful launch and recovery of small UAVs from medium-size USVs, demonstrating the operational potential of combining different unmanned assets. This approach enables long-endurance USVs to carry shorter-endurance UAVs to the desired operational areas.
Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, expressed enthusiasm for the advancements made during Digital Horizon. He believes that harnessing unmanned technologies and AI, regional maritime security can be enhanced, benefiting all stakeholders.
The results of Digital Horizon have paved the way for a distributed and integrated network of systems, creating a “digital ocean” in the Middle East. The seamless integration of sensors, unmanned systems, satellites, and other technologies allows for constant surveillance and real-time decision-making through the intelligent synthesis of vast amounts of data.
Exercise Digital Horizon has truly demonstrated the promise and power of rapid technological innovation. The lessons learned and advancements made in unmanned systems, AI integration, and data analytics will have a profound impact on how navies worldwide approach maritime safety and security.
1. Carrington Malin, Digital Horizon Exercise is a Journey in Information Gathering – Artificial Intelligence and Data Integration Pilot, Naval Warfare (no URL).
2. George Galdorisi, Unmanned Vehicles Set to Play Larger Role in Naval Strategy: Post Digital Horizon, Defense Media Network (no URL).
3. U.S. Army graphic Sgt. Brandon Murphy (image).
4. U.S. Army photo Sgt. Brandon Murphy (image).
5. U.S. Army photo Sgt. Brandon Murphy (image).
6. U.S. Army photo Sgt. Brandon Murphy (image).
7. U.S. Army photo Sgt. Brandon Murphy (image).
8. U.S. Army photo Sgt. Brandon Murphy (image).
9. George Galdorisi, Digital Horizon: Unmanned Systems Integration Test, Defense Media Network (no URL).