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Unmanned Maritime Systems Benefit From New Legislation

Bicameral, Bipartisan Measure Would Advance Technologies, Marine Data

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, along with Reps. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., and Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., today introduced the “Commercial Engagement through Ocean Technology (CENOTE) Act.” This bicameral, bipartisan legislation would advance the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) use of unmanned maritime systems, encourage private sector research and development, and ensure that marine data is readily available and reliable. 

The legislation highlights the unique role that non-defense interests such as NOAA, academia, and the private sector play in the advancement of unmanned systems, which can gather a wide range of ocean data with fishery management, navigation, economic, and national security implications.

“Unmanned systems are allowing us to explore the ocean in unprecedented ways,” Sen. Wicker said. “Expanding NOAA’s mission to include the use of this unobtrusive technology would only help to advance our knowledge of what is happening above and below the surface of the water. This legislation also enables the agency to tap into our universities and the private sector to get the brightest minds working together.”

"With unmanned systems, we have the chance to monitor and patrol the farthest reaches of our oceans, including Papahānaumokuākea, but only if we adopt the technology and use it wisely,” said Senator Schatz. “Our legislation directs NOAA to collaborate with the Navy, along with academia and the private sector, to find and then start using the best new technologies for science and management.”

“By enabling NOAA to further advance its use of unmanned maritime systems, we will be able to tap into a wealth of resources between public-private partnerships,” Congressman Palazzo said. “This bill creates a framework that brings together defense, non-defense, and private sector partners in order to collect a wide-range of ocean data. I believe uniting these industries to expand unmanned maritime systems usage will fuel Mississippi’s already thriving Blue Economy.”

“Advancing unmanned systems has widespread civil, commercial, academic, and national security benefits,” said Congressman Panetta. “This bill accelerates the deployment of these technologies by coordinating partnership opportunities, including with the Naval Postgraduate School to utilize its advanced infrastructure, student-faculty expertise, and research and development programs.”

“Thanks to Senator Wicker and Senator Schatz for introducing this bipartisan bill that addresses key gaps in the establishment of public-private partnerships among defense and non-defense agencies, industry, and academia,” said RADM (Ret.) Jon White, President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. “Partnerships like these advance the ocean science and technology enterprise, benefitting the entire nation. CENOTE’s bipartisan development is a testament to the widespread prioritization of investing limited national resources efficiently and effectively in the comprehensive application of new maritime technologies. CENOTE is a win for defense, commerce, fisheries, environmental monitoring and research, and disaster planning and recovery, and I encourage Congress to act on it.”

A summary of the bill can be found here.