PROJECT GRIFFIN began when a couple of officers in USS Ross (DDG 71) were playing around with a commercial procured toy drone onboard while at sea during a patrol. Almost immediately, they noticed unintended benefits by introducing new methods and ideas to solve gaps in maintenance inspections, training scenarios, safety of equipment and Sailors, public affairs initiatives, and to provide a limited organic air asset. Ross' commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) drone has been nicknamed "GRIFFIN ONE."
Since PROJECT GRIFFIN was initiated; Ross has been able to close training and maintenance challenges by incorporating GRIFFIN ONE into routine evolutions at sea while increasing the commander's situational awareness (SA). The long-term benefits of the program remain undetermined, but initial results indicate that it will have a positive operational impact.
During visit board search and seizure (VBSS) training events, GRIFFIN ONE provided real-time video feedback to the ship which allowed the commanding officer (CO) to observe the VBSS Boarding Team in action. It also provided video playback after the training event, allowing the CO and team members the ability to review and critique the event to improve future training or real world operations.
During crew served weapons (CSW) live fire events, required sea mammal watches face difficulties locating and identifying mammals that could potentially be harmed. GRIFFIN ONE was able to rapidly scan the required engagement areas, providing additional support to the CO to determine if any sea mammals were at risk prior to allowing live fire events to commence. It also allowed the CO's safety representative to supervise gun mounts that were normally out of view from the bridge during execution.
During man overboard drills (MOB) drills, it can take precious minutes to launch organic small boats to locate the MOB. It takes even longer if the recovery boat fails to operate while the second recovery boat is being prepared. GRIFFIN ONE was launched almost immediately and was able to locate and mark the MOB while the ship prepared recovery boats for launch. Live video allowed the CO to determine if the MOB was conscious. Again, video playback allowed the CO and his team to critique shipboard recovery operations.
GRIFFIN ONE's test flight footage of non-offensive or defensive operations also has unlimited public affairs potential. It can rapidly obtain video and stills of shipboard operations at extremely high quality. In turn, video and still images can be rapidly provided to the Theater Commanders to support Public Affairs (PA) initiatives.
Effective shipboard preventative maintenance is a critical aspect of overall war fighting readiness. GRIFFIN ONE's initial flight provided unintended benefits. GRIFFIN ONE flew above the ship's mast to a height of approximately 160 feet. During post-flight review, the crew was able to determine the condition of mast, associated antennas, and shipboard preservation concerns. Though GRIFFIN ONE's video does not fulfill maintenance requirements, it did allow the CO the ability to rapidly review and determine if future preservation or adjustments to the plan were required. The true benefit of the flight was that no Sailors were put at risk by being 147 feet up on the ship's mast. Additionally, they were able to visually verify that Masker Belt discharges had positive flow and installed overboard discharges that were not visible while underway were operating correctly.
GRIFFIN ONE flights have proven their worth during training, maintenance, public affairs, and safety reviews. They have made an immediate impact on the CO's situational awareness and have provided an additional layer of safety for Sailors, equipment, marine life, and the environment. PROJECT GRIFFIN was never intended to provide raw data in support of much more complex or expensive drone programs. Its focus remains a simple and safe alternative in support of routine yet dangerous evolutions at-sea or in-port. Already, the flights have provided leadership the ability to rapidly review ship's procedures and maintenance plans with no risk to equipment or Sailors.
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