Drone boats belonging to the U.S. Navy have begun learning to work together like a swarm with a shared hive mind. Two years ago, they would have individually reacted to possible threats by all swarming over like a chaotic group of kids learning to play soccer for the first time. Now the drone boats have showed that they can cooperate intelligently as a team to defend a harbor area against intruders.
The U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) held its latest robot swarm demonstration in the lower Chesapeake Bay off the Virginia coast for about a month. Four drone boats showed off their improved control and navigation software by patrolling an area of 4 nautical miles by 4 nautical miles.
If they spotted a possible threat, the swarm of roboboats would collectively decide which of them would go track and trail the intruder vessel. In the future, such drone boats could act as a first line of defense by scouting and screening for larger Navy warships manned by sailors.
“We envision unmanned boats doing protection missions, escort missions, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions,” said Cmdr. Luis Molina, deputy department head of ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department, during a press briefing last week.