Yar, there be robots patrollin' the seven seas, thanks to NASA-developed technology.
A new video from the United States Office of Naval Research shows that the self-named "Global Force for Good" is getting ready to deploy self-driving, largely-autonomous drones as part of its massive fleet.
The technology behind the drone boats is called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or CARACaS for short, and it was originally developed by NASA for the Mars Exploration Rover project. Purpose-built drone watercraft are certainly in the Navy's future, but this CARACaS kit is portable, and be fitted into virtually exiting naval vessel. Once installed, the craft requires no human involvement other than whatever standard boat maintenance is required.
Not only can CARACaS-equipped boats operate autonomously, they can also work in teams. Thanks to the baked-in artificial intelligence, a small fleet of "swarm boats" can be deployed on interdiction missions, escort missions, or standard patrols. And the boats being targeted for CARACaS are indeed small -- patrol boats of varying sizes (not battleships...yet).
"Our Sailors and Marines can't fight tomorrow's battles using yesterday's technology," said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder. "This kind of breakthrough is the result of the Navy's long-term support for innovative research in science and technology."
This kind of autonomous aquatic hardware is being framed as a defensive for now, but it doesn't take much imagination to see a boat drone with an off-site gunner/controller in the future.
Source: Navy ONR