The Navy is unleashing a new era in advanced ship protection. In the future they will deploy swarms of autonomous boats to defend themselves or attack hostile forces. They want to save both lives and costs, keeping sailors out of harm way.
Tests in Virginia last summer involved escorting and protecting a “high-value” ship against a possible “enemy” vessel. The rigid-hulled inflatable patrol boats are equipped with robotic controls. They decide on their own where to go, when to steer, and when to apply the throttle. A human operator, who can be in another ship, a helicopter, or well away from the action, uses a laptop to tell the swarmboats which craft are to be protected and which are to be attacked. Up to 20 unmanned boats can be controlled by one sailor, saving valuable personnel.
The swarm boats are armed with a variety of weapons — from .50 caliber machine guns to high-powered microwave weapons. But there is “always a human in the loop” before the robot boats fire their weapons. These boats may have prevented the attack 14 years ago on the USS Cole as it refueled in Yemen, an attack that killed 17 American sailors. See more at Popular Science . . .
Image: U.S. Navy