Within a year, self-guided unmanned patrol boats that can attack potential threats on the water could join the Navy’s fleet. Defense officials say the autonomous swarm-boat technology could help stop attacks like the deadly bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen in 2000.
The attack boats can direct themselves once they are alerted to a threat and work together to surround or block an enemy’s vessel. The boats can also fire .50-caliber machine guns, but only if a human decides lethal force is necessary. A sailor on a command ship would be in charge of each of the boats and could take control over any of the boats at any time. Also, if communication between the unmanned boats and the sailor overseeing them got disconnected, the boat would automatically shut down.
What’s particularly great about the new technology is it will free up sailors to stay aboard the ship who would normally be manning such boats. The sailors would be safer and can focus on other duties instead, like manning weapons systems.
Money won’t be an issue with the technology. The Navy doesn’t even have to purchase new ships. The small, transportable kit can be applied to existing patrol boats and aboard many large warships. Plus, the kits only cost about $2,000 each.
With the unmanned patrol boats, larger ships can be escorted with more protection. Fighting potential enemies will also be easier and fewer lives will be put directly in harm’s way.
What do you think about the technology being rolled out to fleet commanders within a year? In what situations should the unmanned boats be used for?
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Image Copyright: John F. Williams / US Navy / AP