A virtual environment for the Boeing maritime family of systems
By Andrew McMahon and Craig Pepper, Associate Technical Fellows and Brian Bousman, Systems Engineer
Boeing has designed and operated manned and unmanned deep sea systems since the 1960s. The maritime air, surface and subsurface domains remain important markets for the company. Key examples include:
- The P-8A Poseidon—a derivative of the Next-Generation 737-800 aircraft designed for long-range anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions—combines performance and reliability that ensures maximum interoperability in the future battle space.
- The Wave Glider unmanned surface vehicle (USV) by Liquid Robotics is powered by wave and solar energy. The Wave Glider autonomously operates individually or in fleets delivering real-time data for up to a year with no fuel.
- The unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV), Echo Voyager, can operate autonomously for months at a time thanks to a hybrid rechargeable power system and modular payload bay. The 51-foot-long vehicle is the latest addition to Boeing’s UUV family, joining the 32-foot Echo Seeker and the 18-foot Echo Ranger.
But it is not only the individual systems that are key to future protection and exploration of the maritime environment. It is the ability to network these systems across operational domains—from seabed to space—in order to achieve a sustainable, resilient and integrated force that will provide the advantage.
“Digital-twin” technologies are being used across Boeing as enablers to support development of next-generation autonomous air systems.
Digital-twin technologies blur the distinctions between the real operational world and the simulated or virtual world, enabling rapid development of new prototypes for platforms and systems in a cost effective manner compared to traditional methods.
A similar capability for the maritime domain was needed in order to provide a low-cost alternative to sea trials, as well as a capability to help model how these different domains interact at a system-of-systems level.
Enter the “Dynamic Ocean,” an advanced modeling and simulation environment for maritime operations, applicable across the Boeing maritime family of system development programs. Dynamic Ocean allows for exploration of how such systems interact, including with other domains (e.g. interoperability with airborne assets), with sufficient modeling fidelity to address real-world operational challenges.
Dynamic Ocean is built on top of a modeling and simulation software platform called Alliance, newly developed by and for a diverse set of technologists from Boeing’s commercial airplanes, services and defense businesses. Alliance is designed as a hierarchical “mission level” simulation, visualization and data analysis software framework. It manages the different levels of fidelity and abstraction needed in order to create complex, networked seabed-to-space scenarios involving air, surface and subsurface units such as P-8A, Wave Glider and Echo Voyager.
Alliance is currently in use across Boeing’s global business units and innovation centers across Australia, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the United Kingdom. It supports engagement and prototyping activities in Boeing’s traditional defense markets, but also in nontraditional sectors such as mining, energy and agriculture.
Alliance Dynamic Ocean extensions allow the user to tackle complex underwater acoustic sensing and communication scenarios with confidence. It integrates a real-time, physics-based underwater acoustic effects service, developed by Boeing in Huntsville, Alabama. The service incorporates:
- The open-source Wavefront Queue 3D model, which computes acoustic transmission loss in the ocean using hybrid Gaussian beams in spherical/time coordinates. The WaveQ3D model is open-source technology funded as part of the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research High-Fidelity Active Sonar Training program.
- A full suite of physics-based sonar models including passive, active and multistatic active sonar, and subsurface communications, all linked to the weather service.
Given constantly changing oceanographic conditions, and the dominant effect it has on underwater acoustic sensing, a high-fidelity representation of ocean weather is required to address real-world problems. Dynamic Ocean integrates an innovative virtual weather service, developed by Boeing in Australia, which can be used to create realistic and consistent weather environments. The weather service provides:
- The ability to replicate historical or current forecast weather conditions and events, or simply provide dynamically changing conditions over a basic standard atmosphere model.
- Correlated atmospheric, ground and ocean conditions with global coverage over long timeframes to many simultaneous end users using industry-standard web protocols, an application programming interface or a simple web service.
- Oceanographic and meteorological data, which are in turn used to provide ocean weather effects to drive physics-based dynamic and sensor models. Other pertinent geospatial data, such as bathymetry and sediment layer descriptions, are provided as layers via industry-standard terrain streaming technologies.
- Modeling of ocean current drift effects to both surface and subsurface platform dynamic models.
Led by a team in the United Kingdom, Dynamic Ocean has integrated technologies from the U.K., Australia and the United States, including the Alliance mission-level, LVC (live, virtual and constructive) simulation software platform in order to provide the necessary tools to enable Boeing technologists to analyze seabed-to-space operational scenarios in a virtual environment.