The Autonomous Swarm

U.S. military uses NASA Mars Rover technology to create remote-operated attack boats.

Autonomous Swarm
The new technology can be installed on almost any boat, which then is operated "captain-less" from a mothership via software.© AP

Taking a page from growing military use of unmanned drones in the skies, the Office of Naval Research has developed a system called the Autonomous Swarm that turns existing boats into remote-operated attack vessels.

The military recently demonstrated the first-of-its-kind technology on the James River in Virginia, where as many as 13 Navy boats — without anyone aboard — both escorted a Navy vessel and closed in on a simulated enemy target.

The technology, called CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing), operates the so-called swarmboats with sensors and software controlled by a sailor positioned on a mothership.

CARACaS can be installed on almost any boat, according to the Office of Naval Research.

“It will remove our sailors and Marines from many dangerous situations, for instance when they need to approach hostile or suspicious vessels,” Robert Brizzolara, program manager at the Office of Naval Research, stated in a press release. “If an adversary were to fire on the USVs [unmanned surface vehicles], no humans would be at risk.”

Here’s a video that discusses how researchers used technology from NASA’s Mars Rover to create the new military asset: