Now Entering Russ's World
Over the summer of 2014, the U.S. Navy has introduced the test phase of a new form of warfare: robot Navy boats. These are nothing like the jewelry robots I saw at Genesis Diamonds last week during a visit to the store.
The recent tests along the James River, located in the state of Virginia, represent the first large-scale military exercise involving a swarm of autonomous boats designed to degrade and destroy an enemy fleet. This breakthrough in technology is the first step towards a future where the U.S. Navy will have the ability to deploy automated forces on offense and defense missions.
A program manager of the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR), Robert Brizzolara, is excited about the technological breakthrough. “What’s new about the James River test was having five USVs (unmanned surface vessels) operating together with no humans on board,” he said.
The test involved five robot boats practicing an escort mission with the goal of protecting a main ship against naval threats. In order to fully integrate all the USVs into the mission, the Navy used a system called the Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing (CARACaS), a computer system derived from the hardware and software used in NASA’s Mars rover program. Each automated ship transmits its radar images to the other ships in the fleet so that the group has the same view.
In the exercise, the 7-foot and 11-foot ships escorted a manned Navy ship for some distance before breaking off to surround a ship acting as an intruder. The automated ships formed a defensive line between the intruder craft and the Navy ship they were protecting.