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Published on Oct 4, 2014
The autonomous Swarm demonstration, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), highlights a first-of-its-kind technology that gives Naval warfighters a decisive edge through enabling unmanned Navy vessels to overwhelm an adversary.
The demonstration took place on the James River in Virginia during the first two weeks of August, 2014.
Much of the discussion and fear of armed unmanned vehicles ignores a central fact. Aerial drones like the Predator or Reaper are operated by two-man human teams, a pilot to steer the drone, and a sensor operator to control the various mechanical eyes and ears. The boats that participated in the event on the James River were able to sense one another as well as other vessels, and execute complicated “swarm” maneuvers, with a bare minimum of guidance. These boats are not your average drones.
Office of Naval Research, pointed out that a maneuver that required 40 people had just dropped down to just one.
Between them, they carry a variety of payloads, loud speakers and flashing lights, a .50-caliber machine gun, and a microwave direct energy weapon or heat ray.
originally posted by: skunkape23
The next step is autonomous submarine weapons. I hope I'm not the first one to think of that.
UUVs have taken on a number of roles in the navies around the world, including hydrographic reconaissance, mine countermeasures, and oceanographic survey. The U.S. Navy generally classifies UUVs in four categories according to weight and diameter: Man-portable: 3-9 inch diameter, less than 100 pounds,
“We had 13 of these unmanned vessels all working together,” Klunder said. “We had a human being that said designate that target, and I want you 13 craft to go and circle that target, and they did just that.”
When equipped with automatic weapons systems, the boats could potentially have the firepower to take on an aggressor, though that remains to be tested in the future. And most importantly, any decision to use a lethal or non-lethal weapons system will be made by humans.
As Klunder points out, what makes the boats more remarkable is their power save lives.
Had these boats been around 14 years ago, Klunder believes the bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors and injured 39 others, could have been prevented. “We would have indeed saved that vessel,” Klunder said.
Another new sci-fi inspired weapon system developed by Klunder’s team is a ship-based laser currently undergoing field testing in the Persian Gulf. The Laser Weapons System or LaWS is designed to provide Navy ships with long-distance protection from ships and aircraft.
To demonstrate the laser’s power, Klunder held up a metal slab that looks as if a hole has been drilled through the middle. “To take that one pulse of energy through this metal slab here [costs] less than a dollar,” he said.