U.S. Navy Gets in the Autonomous Game with Self-Sailing Swarm Boats
Forget self-driving cars, how about self-driving boats? The U.S. Navy has found that its ships can be vulnerable when docked for resupplying or maneuvering in tight spaces. So it uses small patrol craft to ward off those who might use small crafts themselves to attack the larger warships. Of course, using these smaller craft means putting sailors at risk. In order to counter this, the Navy is testing autonomous ships that can be used instead. Dubbed “swarmboats,” these small, self-sailing crafts can be used as a force multiplier, as one sailor can control several at a time. That sailor can also do so from a safe place. RELATED: See Photos of Google's Self-Driving car
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The tech is dubbed Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or CARACaS. In a recent test, the Navy found that when sailors gave the boats orders, they could decide when to steer and accelerate, and which direction they should go in, all on their own without much human help. It’s like giving your AI-controlled squad mates orders in a video game and seeing them achieve those orders the best way they see fit.
The Navy didn’t fire weapons from the boats during the test, and says that if it ever does use these boats to target something, a human will be involved in the decision, the targeting, and the overall operation. Also, should these boats lose their com link with their human overlords, they will go dead on the spot.
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It will be interesting to see how the Navy uses these autonomous boats. One example mentioned is that they could be used as landing craft for SEALs. Another possibility is some limited use on larger boats.
We’ll see how the Navy chooses to proceed in the coming years.
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