How Gibbs & Cox Develops Innovative Marine Autonomy Solutions

G&C is a leading ship designer and integrator of autonomous systems for government and commercial clients. Our understanding of marine autonomy goes further than the implementation of navigation and control. Our experience developing autonomous vessels for our range of clients starts with a deep understanding of autonomy, the associated challenges, and our willingness to team with the best in the industry.

Developing the Future of Marine Autonomy

Marine Autonomy

Our initial implementation of marine autonomy dates back to 1955, when the U.S. Navy commenced the production of the project SEA LEGS. We developed an automated system that actively controlled two submerged hydrofoils in order to influence the pitch and roll attitude of the vessel in flight. This first application of actively controlled foils provided ride quality and safety that was superior to other vessels with fixed hydrofoil.

To this day, we remain on the cutting edge of technology and development of the Navy’s next generation of unmanned vessels. From concept to sustainment, we combine decades of naval architecture experience with the world’s most reliable marine engineering original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to deliver revolutionary technology to our clients.

Our dedication to advancing our unmanned and autonomous capabilities has led to us winning several notable awards, including:

Solving Complex Marine Autonomy Challenges

Marine autonomy often becomes more complex when an unmanned surface vessel (USV) is expected to perform more than a transit mission between points. Mission complexity is a key distinction between military and commercial applications. An autonomous vessel designed for military application is expected to perform self-navigation and control functions, but with the added requirements of performing complex mission evolutions in hostile environments. Gibbs & Cox is dedicated to solving these challenges for our clients and both investigating and advancing the exciting potential of marine autonomy.

Some of the technical challenges which Gibbs & Cox is proactively solving in the marine autonomy field are:

  • Maneuverability (particularly for large vehicles)
  • Endurance (range and persistence)
  • Reliability (redundancy, self-maintenance and self-repair of systems and equipment)
  • Communications (high speed, reliable and secure)
  • Cooperative employment of multiple USVs working together autonomously

Ethical and legal challenges in advancing USV technology include:

  • Safety of the USV and the vessels or objects it encounters
  • Security of the USV (physical and cyber)
  • Autonomous employment of weapon systems (offensive and defensive)

Give us a call to learn about how our expertise in marine autonomy can benefit you.

How Gibbs & Cox Successfully Meets U.S. Navy Ship Design Requirements

To execute our commitment to achieving the highest quality naval ship designs and meeting our client’s needs, Gibbs & Cox follows strict naval architecture rules, regulations, and design requirements.

Gibbs & Cox Adheres to Rigorous Ship Design Rules & Standards

Naval ship designs are tailored to meet an immense set of specifications. These specifications include the Navy’s unique governing rule set and numerous governmental and industrial regulations and standards. U.S. naval ship designs are developed using the Naval Combatant Design Specification or other Ship Class System Specification as the governing rule set. These rule sets are then integrated with the additional design criteria expressed in the contract to develop the ship design. Other criteria examples include NAVSEA Contract Drawings and Contract Guidance Drawings, U.S. Navy Design Data Sheets, U.S. Navy Design Practices and Criteria documents, U.S. Government Specifications, U.S. Government and Industry Standards, and Installation Control Drawings and Interface Control Drawings.

We Ensure Compliance Through Every Step of the Design Process

Gibbs & Cox ship design capabilities range from Preliminary Design through Detailed Design and Post-Delivery Engineering Change modification packages. We rigorously decompose all design requirements by work element at the beginning of Preliminary Design to capture and de-conflict each requirement. This approach allows the resultant design to be as integrated and de-risked as possible, from a requirements standpoint, before starting Functional Design. The requirements decomposition continues into Functional and Detailed Design to ensure that the final design is compliant with all requirements and all requirements can be tested and verified.

Our Ship Design Products Include:

  • Preliminary Design Products – Drawings and reports defining the design at a preliminary level of detail to prove feasibility of the design and identify potential design risks needed for adjudication in the next design phase
  • Contact Design Products – Drawings, analyses, and calculations further defining the ship’s structure and HM&E systems to allow the development of equipment Purchase Technical Specification and material parts list at the start of Functional Design
  • Detailed Design Products – Functional reports and calculations necessary to achieve Navy acceptance of the design. Production Drawings of all structural members and details, including hull, foundations, and joint designs, piping spool piece drawings, and electrical one-line drawings, cableway routing and alarms, sensors and control drawings.
  • Post Delivery Products – Work items to support engineering changes, Inclining and Ship trial support


Meeting Our Client’s Needs is the Top Requirement in Every Phase of Naval Ship Design

Our team of experienced ship designers and engineers ensures that all of our designs are fully integrated and compliant with all contractual requirements to meet our client’s expectations and deliver top-quality solutions.

How Gibbs & Cox Delivers Superior Marine Engineering

Successful maritime projects begin with in-depth knowledge of the fundamentals of marine engineering.

As a full-service, multi-discipline marine engineering firm, we are uniquely positioned to integrate design requirements and perform design tradeoffs for the selection of the appropriate design solution, along with final system design verification and validation.

The Marine Engineering Services We Offer

Gibbs & Cox marine engineers are specialists in full life cycle engineering support, offering our clients a wide range of capabilities, from concept and feasibility design through detailed design and construction to ship-alt design support to extend service-life. Our specialists cover the design of all Hull, Mechanical & Electrical (HM&E) systems onboard all types of naval and commercial ships. Our HM&E design services include: HVAC, propulsion plant selection, shafting design, engine intake and uptake design, along with all fluid and air piping systems for machinery support, firefighting, and ship services.

Our Proven Marine Engineering Results

Gibbs & Cox has a proven track record in developing ship system designs from early-stage feasibility studies to fully engineered and designed systems using 3D modeling environments, which allows us to provide detailed fabrication drawings and calculations. When developing functional systems, the key to our success is the application of a phased development process, where we slowly increase the level of detail related to the system design for each successive design product before commencing the detailed design. This process has been successfully integrated into every Gibbs & Cox total ship detailed design program and features the development of a variety of design and engineering products.

We have utilized our functional system development process in several recent programs, including:

How Our Marine Engineers Minimize Risk

Gibbs & Cox continues to lead in the integration of industry technological advancements into ship Hull, Mechanical & Electrical (HM&E) systems. Design challenges and risks always exist when implementing new technologies in the rapidly advancing naval combatant environment, but our team draws from our decades of design experience and engineering expertise, which allows us to easily integrate developmental equipment and systems into a ship design and quickly identify and mitigate any design challenges and risks.

We have contributed to the ship integration of several advanced marine technologies such as:

    • Rankin Energy Cycle Recovery
    • Integrated Electric Propulsion
    • Hybrid Electric Propulsion Systems
    • Environmental Treatment Systems
    • Advanced High-Power Weapons and Sensors

Learn More About the Marine Engineering Life-Cycle Support

What Makes Us Top Naval Architects?

Gibbs & Cox naval architecture expertise draws from nearly 100 years of industry experience and technical development captured in our technical processes and procedures to provide a comprehensive set of design services across a variety of platforms to give our customers quality products.

What Our Naval Architects Can Do For You

Naval ArchitectureOur naval architecture services span the ship’s entire lifetime, from early-stage concept designs through detailed design, shipyard construction support, full lifecycle and sustainment support, ship alterations, and service life extensions. Our team of naval architects and marine engineers transform a set of top-level requirements into concept-level definitions to evaluate technical feasibility, cost and performance.

Our engineers combine the use of in-house proprietary naval architecture tools and state-of-the-art software with an extensive technical library to provide accurate naval architecture assessments to our clients. Our use of alternative solutions, developed in trade-off studies to develop data-informed solutions for the design, result in a higher-fidelity design solution.

A few of the key components and outputs of our design process include:

  • Overall ship sizing studies and feasibility assessments
  • System tradeoff studies
  • Preparation of contract guidance drawings and working drawings
  • Ship checks

A Naval Architecture Firm You Can Rely On

Gibbs & Cox is the largest independent naval architectural firm in the United States and has the resources and processes in place to competitively execute ship designs of all sizes, delivering high-quality products on time and at cost.

Gibbs & Cox’s expertise continues to be sought by shipyards and navies from countries around the world to assist in early-stage studies, contract and design development, and detailed design and production for both new and conversion projects.

Our detail design & construction solutions are highly tailorable to the needs of the program, shipbuilder, and end-customer. Our efforts seek to maximize producibility and affordability while mitigating risk for procurement, planning, construction, test, delivery, and acceptance.

Learn More About How the Naval Architecture Services at Gibbs & Cox Can Suit Your Needs