ARL @ UH Dives into Maritime Domain Awareness with UxS

Waikalua Loko I’a Fishpond, Kāneʻohe.

The Hawaiian Islands are some of the most remote islands on the planet. With large populations of people located in remote areas with single-road access, coastal communities throughout the islands are at risk of large-scale natural or manmade disasters significantly impacting critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and harbors, leaving people isolated without access to emergency aid. ARL @ UH is working to increase our ability to respond to such disasters by developing coordinated unmanned vehicles that collect data about their surroundings. The situational awareness provided from data collected by Unmanned Systems (UxS’s) can enable disaster response teams to better plan response efforts and help save lives.

On November 1st 2017, the ARL @ UH conducted its inaugural multi-domain demonstration at Waikalua Loko I’a Fishpond in Kāneʻohe Bay. As part of a 3-day planning meeting, the demonstration intended to show potential end users (Navy, USCG, NOAA, HPD, Booze Allen Hamilton, Sierra Nevada Corporation) and collaborators (UH Engineering, UH Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL), University of Porto) the vehicles and operations capabilities already available for future UxS exercises in 2018. Our Mission: Inspect the fishpond kuapā (wall) for unexpected breaches and survey the surrounding area to enable access for aid vessels. 

After a traditional Hawaiian blessing by Herb Lee, the Executive Director of Pacific American Foundation, the group had a quick pre-mission brief before starting operations.

Pre-mission brief


The demonstration included two Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV), the WAM-V and Mr. UH, which were were operated by the a group of UH graduate students on Team Kanaloa. Mr. UH was operated manually by the Kanaloa team with a remote controller and was tasked with operating in shallow areas to create a depth profile map of the vehicle path using the EchoMap Chirp 74 CV fish finder. The WAM-V conducted a pre-planned mapping path in Kāne‘ohe Bay and collected RGB imagery fore, aft, port and starboard of the vessel. The Edge UAS, managed by Trent Lukaczyk, CTO of Flightwave Aero conducted a pre-planned mapping mission over the fishpond and bay area adjacent to the fishpond wall with an RGB camera. The first flight collected still imagery which was used to create a map of the targeted area, and the second broadcast live video from the aircraft to the ground station, which was broadcast to a TV for the audience. The DJI Phantom 4 Pro Plus was operated by Bobby Kahana as a simulation of police response to an emergency and conducted a perimeter flight path to collect situational awareness of the event. The Instant Eye Gen 4, piloted by ARL UAS Program Director Ted Ralston collected a water sample from the canal using a plastic water bottle and delivered it to the audience.


The demonstration was a resounding success and spurred high-energy conversations detailing goals for the 2018 demonstration, which will be held March 10th. If interested in participating or attending future demonstrations, please email Josh at