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Darpa crowd-sources anti-submarine tactics

The military agency has posted a simulation game featuring an underwater anti-submarine, in the hopes of gathering data on the best moves to make when hunting enemy vessels

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Topic: Innovation
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1 of 3 Ben Woods/ZDNet

Darpa Actuv game options screen

The US's Darpa (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) has produced a submarine-hunting PC game that it hopes will generate data useful to its development of anti-submarine drones.

The military technology development agency has posted the free Actuv Tactics Simulator game on the Darpa site for download by the public. In the simulator, which is incorporated into the existing game Dangerous Waters, players pilot a virtual replica of a Darpa Anti-submarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (Actuv).

The aim is to use the unmanned underwater ship to track down quiet enemy submarines, while dodging commercial sea traffic.

The game, which integrates evasion techniques used in warfare by submarines, gathers data on the player's successful and unsuccessful tactics. Players can then — if they choose — submit their game data to Darpa to analyse and help it shape the Actuv software.

"Before we can develop the autonomous software that will run on Actuv's computers, we need to understand what approaches and methods are the most effective," Darpa said in a statement.

The game (pictured) offers players the option of single or multi-player play and allows them to choose between five different Actuvs. No personal information about the player is transmitted, the agency said in a statement to launch the game on Monday.

Screenshot: Ben Woods


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2 of 3 Ben Woods/ZDNet

Darpa Actuv game instructions

The PC game allows players to switch between Actuv and overview viewpoints, and provides all manner of on-screen data to help keep players in pursuit of enemy subs. It also provides detailed mission instructions, accessible at any time, that specify the current goals.

Darpa began its project to develop the Actuv anti-submarine drone in March 2010. The launch of the game marks the second stage of the four-part project. The program was set up in response to the emergence of modern diesel-electric submarines, which are capable of challenging conventional tracking approaches.

When work is completed, the Actuv subs will feature "a novel suite of sensors" to help track elusive diesel-electric submarines, the agency said.

"The program seeks to advance autonomous operations technology with a goal of full compliance with safe navigation requirements while executing its tactical mission under a sparse remote supervisory control model," Darpa said.

Screenshot: Ben Woods


See more tech photos on ZDNet UK.

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3 of 3 Ben Woods/ZDNet

Darpa Actuv

The remote-control Actuv drones are intended to operate under minimal supervision. They will be fitted with autonomous navigation and anti-collision features to ensure they comply with maritime law, according to Darpa.

The game will help meet the software needs for this by requiring players to respond to unexpected moves by the enemy submarine. It will award points for successful manoeuvres and approaches.

Top game players will be listed on a public leader board, and Darpa has also set up a forum for people to share tips on how to do well in the simulation.

Screenshot: Ben Woods


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