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The Design of an Intelligent Decision Support Tool for Submarine Commanders

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Master's thesis

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A recent search of headlines shows a high number of maritime collisions and accidents. The USS Hartford, a nuclear submarine, recently surfaced into an oil tanker just after the running aground of the USS Port Royal in Hawaii. Internationally, a French and British submarine collided in the Atlantic Ocean. The high frequency of these maritime accidents points to the need for a better decision support in ship and submarine navigation. Towards this end, this thesis proposes a mobile decision support tool to aid maritime commanders in maintaining situational awareness and aiding in navigation and collision avoidance. The Mobile Situational Awareness Tool MSAT, specifically designed for submarine commanders but extensible to all maritime settings, provides mobile information for health and status monitoring and on-the-fly path planning capabilities. The functional and informational requirements for MSAT were identified through an in-depth analysis of submarine operations, specifically through a cognitive task analysis. The MSAT design incorporates a path planning algorithm that accounts for depth, land, visibility, and other contacts to propose the most efficient path from start to finish, especially useful for navigation in littoral regions. The MSAT also provides health and status monitoring capabilities, tracking many of the important systems across a submarine to provide information to the commander, as well as maintain high situational awareness. Human subject experiments showed that when compared to paper charts, the navigation tool in the MSAT performs significantly better with regards to both path length and the time it takes to plan a new path. For health and status monitoring, a survey of current task times revealed potential savings by the MSAT by decreasing both the average and variability of task time.

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  • Submarine Engineering

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