We all remember the giant robot movies from our youth and in recent years movies where autonomous robots “think” for themselves and overthrow authority. Those dreams are now becoming reality with the Navy’s new autonomous program. Using Zodiac R.H.I.B.s already in service the US Navy is fitting brains and control systems to produce a swarm of defensive and offensive “bots” that can stay on station and operate independently of human control. What this means to sailors is they can potentially eliminate a threat without actually coming into contact with heavy fire or explosives meant to disable or sink ships. High value assets can be guarded and defended with the push of a button keeping ships and sailors alike safe.
The tech involved called “CARACAS” was originally designed for unmanned space missions but was found to be beneficial to terrestrial and marine based operations. There are now hundreds of stories online reporting on testing and trials of the Navy’s new system like this one from the Smithsonian.
Swarming and AI for robots has been in academia for decades but practical applications have been hard to realize until now. By using the Zodiac inflatable boat platform the Navy now has a virtually unsinkable and ultimately stable high-speed asset that is able to perform in any sea state or prevailing condition. Special operators have long known of the Zodiac inflatable boat as a reliable and seaworthy platform that takes them into harm’s way and back home again when the mission is complete. It was only natural that the US Navy would take the next step forward with the Zodiacs and add tech to operate remotely or autonomously to save more lives and prevent injuries sustained from the most extreme operational conditions a mariner could face.
In the long run the Navy’s approach could not only save lives but reduce costs for defense, a subject that is always closely scrutinized by the public sitting back home safe and sound on their couches.
The future looks bright for sailors as the technology advances to the deployment phase.
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