The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will work with the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) to advance research and development of uncrewed systems and enable enhanced operation of the platform for better environmental data collection.
The agency said Thursday the 10-year agreement with USM also includes UxS testing and evaluation and serves as a framework for collaborative work between scientists from NOAA and operators of the said sensor-equipped vehicles.
NOAA uses UxS to inform extreme event forecasting with information gathered through at-sea observations. The vehicles are also capable of assisting the agency in marine mammal and fishery stock assessments, ocean exploration and seafloor and habitat mapping efforts.
"The use of uncrewed systems increases safety and productivity and allows us to expand coverage and access of ocean space, especially in remote, hazardous or extreme environments," said Kelly Lucas, associate vice president for research, coastal operations at USM.
Lucas also noted the possibility of uncrewed systems transforming data collection and processes if augmented with artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Rear Adm. Nancy Hann, deputy director for operations for NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and deputy director of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, said the agency will help drive innovation in Mississippi. The state could be "a major hub for ocean research and innovation," according to her.
The partnership is in line with NOAA's efforts to work with the U.S. Navy, other federal agencies, industry and academia on UxS research, testing and acquisition as required by the Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology Act.