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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

The US Navy’s trials of their first autonomous warship platform have been wildly successful.

 

The US Navy’s new unarmed Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) Sea Hunter has completed its first round of sea trials and it aced all of its tests for speed, manoeuvrability, stability, seakeeping, acceleration, deceleration, and fuel consumption, as well as mechanical systems reliability on the open sea.

 

Video 1: ACTUV speed and manoeuvrability tests, Apr 2016
 

Built by defence firm Leidos for a mere $20ml and co-sponsored by DARPA and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the autonomous 132ft trimaran, which is designed to track potentially hostile submarines for months at a time without a crew, was launched earlier this year on April 9 at the Swan Island shipyard in Portland, Oregon.

While Sea Hunter had a pilot on board for the initial trials, and is currently equipped with a temporary pilot house the next trials, set to start next month will have no personnel on board letting Leidos and DARPA test the ships autonomous capabilities. When it’s in service Sea Hunter will operate for around 70 days at sea without a crew and will leave and return to port on its own.

 

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These first round of trials are the beginning of a  two year long test program and the next phase of testing will concentrate more on the vessel’s autonomous capabilities with a focus on sensors, the autonomy suite, the ability of the vessel to comply with maritime collision regulations, and what Leidos calls “proof of concept” demonstrations for a variety US Navy missions and from the results we’re seeing so far it isn’t too hard to see the Sea Hunter being just the first in a long line of autonomous warships. The only question we, and many others have, is when will they be armed and then, eventually, who will have control of those new weapons systems in the long run.

The world of warfare is changing and it’s changing fast.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, award winning Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute, a global futures think tank working between the dates of 2020 and 2070, is described as "The Adviser behind the Advisers." Regularly featured on AP, CNBC, Discovery and RT, his ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past five years as one of the world's foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive future. A rare talent Matthew sits on the Technology and Innovation Committee (TIAC) for Centrica, Europe’s largest utility company, and his recent work includes mentoring XPrize teams, building the first generation of biocomputers and re-inventing global education, and helping the world’s largest manufacturers envision, design and build the next 20 years of devices, smartphones and intelligent machines. Matthew's clients are the who’s who of industry and include Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, the USAF and many others.

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