The Challenge

How will our maritime culture be affected when machines perform more of the Observe-Orient- Decide-Act-Access cycle?

The next decade will witness a revolution in maritime operations, perhaps rivaling the transition from sail to steam. Unmanned systems under the sea, on the sea, and above the sea—acting progressively more autonomously but in close concert with their human masters—will surely change some very fundamental aspects of the science of naval warfare. But will these systems also change the art? How will our maritime culture be affected when machines perform more and more of the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act-Assess cycle? What things (if any) should we never let machines do? What sort of people will we need to recruit and train for this sort of future? Ten years hence, what are the things we will look back on, and wish we had done today to advance the adoption and utilization of unmanned systems? Essays should address the necessary changes in the Naval profession as a result of the incorporation of unmanned systems technology into the maritime battle space.

To encourage free and open exchange of ideas and a vigorous discussion on unmanned maritime systems innovation, the U.S. Naval Institute, with sponsorship from Textron Systems and Bell Helicopter, is hosting the Unmanned Maritime Systems Forum.

Following the essay contest, an open online discussion will be offered through the U.S. Naval Institute Blog to develop the “conversation starters” represented by the contest winners.


Open to all currently or formerly serving, or civilians engaged in work or strategy on unmanned maritime systems.

Length of Essays

Not to exceed 3,000 words


30 September 2013

Winning essay published in November 2013 Proceedings (print & online)

1st Prize

$5,000 & One year U.S. Naval Institute Membership

2nd Prize

$2,500 & One year U.S. Naval Institute Membership

3rd Prize

$1,500 & One year U.S. Naval Institute Membership

Selected Submissions

First Prize
Commander Michael J. Dobbs, U.S. Navy (Retired)
First Prize
Lieutenant Ryan Hilger, U.S. Navy
Third Prize
The Future of Unmanned Operations is Unmanned Analysis
Ensigns Shane Halton and Chris O’Keefe, U.S. Navy
Honorable Mention
Poised for Launch, or Sinking Fast?
Captain George Galdorisi, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Honorable Mention
Return to Trust at Sea Through Unmanned Autonomy
Commander Chris Rawley, U.S. Navy
Honorable Mention
Cultural Experimentation for the Coming Drone Fleet
James Hasik
Honorable Mention
The "Aresian Risk" of Unmanned Maritime Systems
Lieutenant Joseph M. Hatfield, U.S. Navy
Honorable Mention
Eliminate the "You" in UMV
Lieutenant (j.g.) Alex Borgelt, U.S. Navy
Honorable Mention
The Unmanning of the Navy
Steven J. Forsberg
Honorable Mention
The Unmanned Revolution
Tom Spahn
Supported by
Textron Systems
Bell Helicopter A Textron Company Logo
Bell Helicopter

Previous Winners