Using technology originally designed for the Mars Rover, the Office of Naval Research has developed a kit that can be added to any boat and used to make a swarm of autonomous boats.
Navy officials see the new capability as a force multiplier to make the other guy work harder to get through our technology without putting Sailors at risk.
“It’s a great capability to relieve the Sailor of the dirty, the dangerous, the dull missions out there,” said Rick Simon, the Demonstration Director with Spatial Integrated Systems, one of the contractors working on the project. “Instead of having four patrols boats out there with four or five Sailors on each boat, you have one or two Sailors sitting at an operations center controlling four or five boats.”
The robot boats are inexpensive and expendable. The technology, called CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing) can be put into a transportable kit and installed on almost any boat. The boats can choose their own path, network, then intercept a contact, transmitting situational awareness data back to the control center the whole time.
Demonstrated back in 2014, they escorted a boat through a narrow passage (shown in the video below).
The new mission tests is geared for harbor defense. The boats can use cooperative decision making between the boats to handle business in deterring and detaining possible threats.