The U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) has developed a new unmanned swarm boats which are expected to enter service within a year. The ONR has released a video showing their newest technology.
The swarms are equipped with sensors and special software for remote control. The speed and the course of the vessel are determined by algorithms. The swarms can act as an initial defense line that cannot only warn but also fire. The weapons onboard are controlled by a person on a comand ship.
The first demonstration of the vessels was held in August on the James River near Fort Eustis in Virginia. A routine transit through a strait was simulated (like a passage of U.S. battleships through the Strait of Hormuz). The Navy vessel was escorted by 13 small unmanned patrol boats. Having detected "an enemy vessel", eight of the boats broke off and swarmed around the threat.
According to the program manager at the ONR, Robert Brizzolara, the boats can decide for themselves what movements to make once they are alerted to a threat.
The technology used is called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing (CARACaS). According to the Navy, some of the components were adapted from technology originally developed by NASA for the Mars Rover spaceflight programmes. Robert Brizzolara noted that the technology could have wider applications in the future outside military use.
"This is something that you might find not only just on our naval vessels, we could certainly see this utilized to protect merchant vessels, to protect ports and harbors, used also to protect offshore oil rigs," he added.
Video demonstration of Autonomous Swarm