Mississippi Governor Lauds Unmanned Systems at AUVSI Event



C-Worker 6 unmanned surface vehicle. AUVSI photo.

Hurricane Katrina might have been 10 years ago, but for the state of Mississippi, monitoring and preserving its stretch of the Gulf Coast is still at the forefront of its agenda. New help from unmanned surface vehicles may hold the key to getting the data to do so more effectively, said the state’s Gov. Phil Bryant. 

On 17 Dec., Bryant addressed the audience at an AUVSI event in Gulfport facilitated by the association’s Mississippi Chapter. And before the end of the day, he was commanding the technology himself, steering an ASV Ltd. C-Worker 6 USV that was performing a bathymetric survey. 

The system, owned by oil and gas service provider C&C Technologies, is being tested by the state’s National Oceans and Applications Research Center for environmental monitoring and survey work offshore. Using software from EdgeTech, the system performed a demonstration for a group of media and other invited guests of how one of these surveys might work. 

“Understanding our oceans — something that is 70 percent of this world — is something that we still lack,” said AUVSI President and CEO Michael Toscano, speaking after Bryant. “And now you have the ability to extend the eyes and ears of a human being to understand what is happening to this planet from an environmental standpoint and also from a living standpoint.”

Toscano said the industry now faces more of a leadership problem than a technical problem. Many people have proven they can fly, drive and navigate an unmanned system from any domain, and Mississippi is lucky to have a governor that understands how this technology would be beneficial, he said. 

“You are very, very fortunate to have leaders that have vision and that have insight, because that is what is going to carry the day,” Toscano said. 

Bryant likened the potential of unmanned maritime systems to the current boom in unmanned aerial vehicles.

“If Google is talking about using UAVs to deliver packages, what will these ships deliver? What products will they carry on an unmanned vessels around the world?” he said. “It will be limitless.”

During his time in office, Bryant has overseen the creation of the National Oceans and Applications Research Center, which he tasked with monitoring “from the blue sky to the bottom of the ocean,” to get a better understanding of the Gulf of Mexico watershed. With the center, Bryant said he wanted to create something that affected Mississippi well beyond his governorship.

“Look out these windows,” he told the crowd at Gulfport’s Great Southern Club, which sits 15 floors above a panoramic view of the Gulf. “If we don’t make sure that’s there for our generations of children, we will have failed.”


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