These Autonomous Boats Use the Same Technology as NASA's Mars Rover

Autonomous Boats 1 photo
Photo: Screenshots from ONR's Youtube Account
While everybody struggles to be the first at making self-driving cars, it would seem similar competitions happen for vehicles traveling in the air and on water, as well. The Office of Naval Research has recently announced a technological breakthrough which allows unmanned surface vehicles (USV) to not only protect Navy ships, but also, for the first time, autonomously “swarm” offensively around hostile vessels.
The first-of-its kind technology is the result of several months of research made by a team of experts in fields such as science and technology, warfare centers, industry, university affiliated research centers and with the support from the U.S. coast guard and operational navy.

After running the first drills back in August, the team has now proved that unmanned Navy vessels are able to overwhelm an adversary. Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge and the ability to safely go through enemy threats.

This networking unmanned platforms demonstration was a cost-effective way to integrate many small, cheap, and autonomous capabilities that can significantly improve our war-fighting advantage,” Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations.

The self-driving boats use similar technologies as NASA’s rover who was sent to the Mars mission. The technology, called CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing) - is under development by ONR, and can be put into a transportable kit and installed on almost any boat.

It allows boats to operate autonomously, without a Sailor physically needing to be at the controls - including operating in sync with other unmanned vessels. The vessels are able to choose their own routes, swarm to interdict enemy vessels and escort/protect naval assets.

In the future, U.S. Army will have autonomous UAVs too

In the demonstrations, as many as 13 Navy boats are operated using the new technology. Nonetheless, according to ONR, in the future, the capability could be scalef to include an even greater number of USVs and even to other platforms, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In other words, boats and airplanes will escort other vehicles driving themselves, in the close future.

As to the ones we can observe in the video below, not only are they able to swarm and drive themselves, but the new technology will also allow the self-driving boats to detect, deter or destroy attacking adversaries. However, any weapon fire from the USVs would need to be initiated by a human supervising the mission.

Fond of the new vessels? Well you should be considering the government is planning to keep improving their blended force of manned and unmanned systems, a thing they claim they have been doing in recent years.

Well, with all this autonomous technology going on, we might just see the surrogate phenomenon desribed in the homonimus book and movie actually becoming real.

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