STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (NNS) -- The first U.S. Underwater Glider Workshop drew more than 90 glider operators from federal agencies, universities, and industry to see naval oceanography glider operations and build a more cohesive national glider network.
"Astonishing!" and "I've never seen so many gliders in one place!" were just a few of the exclamations overheard when Glider Task Team members of the Interagency Ocean Observing Committee (IOOC) toured the Glider Operations Center at the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) during the workshop held Jan. 18-19 at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi.
As the nation's largest owner and operator of unmanned systems including gliders, Naval Oceanography, headquartered at Stennis Space Center, is part of the IOOC's Glider Task Force.
Dr. Bill Burnett, deputy commander of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC), provided introductory remarks to the group explaining NMOC's unmanned systems experience and future initiatives.
"We're leading the way in unmanned systems, and we want to continue to lead the way," Burnett said. "There is so much others can glean from how we operate the platforms and use the information."
Touring the 24/7 Glider Operations Center and the Glider Lab, both one-of-a-kind entities operated by NAVOCEANO, was a primary draw for holding the event at Stennis Space Center.
For more than 20 years, naval oceanographers, operating more than 100 unmanned systems, have collected information from more than 250,000 miles of physical battlespace which directly supports submarine, mine, special operations, and expeditionary warfare.
NMOC Commander Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet released his Unmanned Systems Strategy last year, which calls to expand Naval Oceanography's use of unmanned systems, enable the fleet and joint forces' use of unmanned systems, and engage stakeholders to accelerate development of future systems.
"I believe our growth in unmanned systems will completely revolutionize Naval Oceanography," Burnett said.
The workshop is one of the ways the command can share its two decades of experience with other unmanned systems operators, and generate ideas which could drive future development.
Burnett explained the command's plans to develop a Navy range complex along the Mississippi Sound which is instrumented for expeditionary, hydrographic, and interoperability testing and training in deep water, littoral, and riverine environments.
The command has also partnered with the University of Southern Mississippi for an unmanned underwater systems certification program which will ensure its pilots, scientists, and technicians are qualified to operate and maintain the systems.
Learning from each other's accomplishments and working to develop standards were key goals of the workshop, which organizers believe was a success.
"It's been fantastic," said Barbara Kirkpatrick, co-chair of the Glider Task Team. "People are so engaged in these talks, they actually arrived early on the second day to continue the conversations."
Burnett believes as Naval Oceanography continues to grow its unmanned systems capabilities, future collaborations will be vital.
"Because unmanned systems are becoming so prolific, it's important to meet with groups like this," Burnett said. "We look forward to engaging with the IOOC and others in the future."
Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (COMNAVMETOCCOM)directs and oversees the collection, processing, and exploitation of accurate, relevant, and timely oceanographic, meteorological, hydrographic, precise time, and astrometric information. COMNAVMETOCCOM is assigned as Commander, Task Group 80.7 under U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and is part of the information forces. Naval Oceanography includes approximately 2,500 globally distributed military and civilian personnel.
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