You’re leisurely cruising along, suddenly and quite loudly you hear:
“You are in a restricted area. Your identity is unknown, and your intentions are unclear …”
Blaring a warning, it moved to intercept an intruding vessel, making it clear that any further incursion would be a bad idea. The patrol boat, sans pilot, wasn’t kidding.
No sailor was harmed in this encounter. In fact, no sailor had to lift a finger.
The Navy is advancing its development of Autonomous Maritime Navigation, using unmanned craft that can patrol waterways and ports without humans at the helm — and without humans at the joystick, for that matter.
No Skipper Required — This unmanned surface vessel patrolled for intruders during the Navy’s Trident Warrior 2011 exercise. The experimental boat can operate completely autonomously or by remote control.
Using technology adapted from NASA’s Mars Rover, these unmanned boats are more like guard dogs than explorers, maneuvering independently through the water, gathering intelligence and serving as the Navy’s eyes and ears — and, occasionally, its voice.