Drone Boats Could Cut Costs in Costal Patrol Missions
The advent of the unmanned arial vehicle has drastically changed the way wars are fought from the sky. Now, that same drone technology is transforming the way military and law enforcement entities prevent conflicts on the coasts. They’re called sea drones, or unmanned surface vessels (USV), and they can intervene in dangerous coastal ship interception missions without endangering the life of an operator or human occupants. They buck the trend of today’s highly-capable manned patrol boats, such as the new Safehaven Marine Barracuda (pictured below). CNN recently highlighted some of the advantages and disadvantages of both, and how they fit into the coast guard fleets of the future. RELATED: Watch the U.S. Navy Test its New Aerial Drone Swarms
Undoubtedly one of the biggest plus sides of the sea drone is cost. Without a crew, USVs can afford to be smaller, less expensive, and highly mobile like the “Protector” sea drone, developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. It features a top-mounted optical pod and stabilized small-caliber weapon firing station.
The U.S. Office of Naval Research also demonstrated last year that sea drones could be adapted from a range of currently in use, low-cost patrol boasts as well. During testing in Virginia’s James River, the Navy tested the ability of autonomous patrol boats to defend and “swarm” attack an adversarial ship, en masse, with only one sailor needed to control the fleet. The technology installed on the ships was gleaned in part from NASA’s Mars Rover program, and the up-fitting of current patrol boats saves money and the risk of human capital.
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On the flip side, there are things that manned fast-attack boats like the Barracuda can provide that an unmanned sea drone can’t. That includes the ability to deploy marine forces during interception and ship boarding missions. This physical presence could play a crucial part in deterring coastal terror activities.
Unmanned surface vehicles have already proven their worth in dangerous mine sweeping missions. In the coming years, a mix of both manned and unmanned vessels are expected to be protecting our ports at home.
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Photo Credit: Office of Naval Research, Safehaven Marine