US military readies drone submarine hunter

Warship is unmanned and – currently – unarmed


Video Early next year a 140-ton warship will slip from its Pacific berth and sail out to patrol US coastal waters for up to three months, all without a single sailor on board.

The Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) is a 132-foot ship packed with sensors designed to hunt down signals from diesel-electric submarines using active and passive sonar. It can be controlled via satellite by landlubbers in air-conditioned cubicles, but is also designed to operate autonomously for long periods.

Scott Littlefield, program manager of US military research boffins at DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, said that the ACTUV was a money-saving bit of military kit, costing $15,000 to $20,000 per day to run. By contrast, a destroyer packed with humans in need of sleep, food, and water costs $700,000 a day.

The drone ship will set sail for sea trials in January or February from its harbor in Oregon on a trip to San Diego to iron out the kinks in its systems. The autonomous navigation system underwent a successful 35-mile test in January aboard a 42-foot (13-metre) surrogate vessel, and the ACTUV will go out on a series of limited trials over the next two years.

Youtube Video

"Generally, we're there," Littlefield said, adding that the goal was to get a ship that "is about as reliable as a vessel operated by experienced mariners."

There are no plans to equip the ACTUV with weapons - yet. The ship is supposed to patrol certain zones, periodically springing forwards and then coasting to allow its sonar systems to work. If it detects a signal, and the human overseer confirms the spot, it alerts other surface ships and they can move in to see what the fuss is about.

But since the boat is basically a floating sensor platform, it can be adapted to many roles. Littlefield said scouting out minefields was one use the operators are exploring.

As the ACTUV won't need to carry a human crew and the supplies to keep them going, the ship can also be packed with more hardware and stay out for longer periods. While it's unarmed at the moment, the Pentagon may have other plans in future if it proves reliable. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • These Rapoo webcams won't blow your mind, but they also won't break the bank

    And they're almost certainly better than a laptop jowel-cam

    Review It has been a long 20 months since Lockdown 1.0, and despite the best efforts of Google and Zoom et al to filter out the worst effects of built-in laptop webcams, a replacement might be in order for the long haul ahead.

    With this in mind, El Reg's intrepid reviews desk looked at a pair of inexpensive Rapoo webcams in search for an alternative to the horror of our Dell XPS nose-cam.

    Rapoo sent us its higher-end XW2K, a 2K 30fps device and, at the other end of the scale, the 720p XW170. Neither will break the bank, coming in at around £40 and £25 respectively from online retailers, but do include some handy features, such as autofocus and a noise cancelling microphone.

    Continue reading
  • It's one thing to have the world in your hands – what are you going to do with it?

    Google won the patent battle against ART+COM, but we were left with little more than a toy

    Column I used to think technology could change the world. Google's vision is different: it just wants you to sort of play with the world. That's fun, but it's not as powerful as it could be.

    Despite the fact that it often gives me a stomach-churning sense of motion sickness, I've been spending quite a bit of time lately fully immersed in Google Earth VR. Pop down inside a major city centre – Sydney, San Francisco or London – and the intense data-gathering work performed by Google's global fleet of scanning vehicles shows up in eye-popping detail.

    Buildings are rendered photorealistically, using the mathematics of photogrammetry to extrude three-dimensional solids from multiple two-dimensional images. Trees resolve across successive passes from childlike lollipops into complex textured forms. Yet what should feel absolutely real seems exactly the opposite – leaving me cold, as though I've stumbled onto a global-scale miniature train set, built by someone with too much time on their hands. What good is it, really?

    Continue reading
  • Why Cloud First should not have to mean Cloud Everywhere

    HPE urges 'consciously hybrid' strategy for UK public sector

    Sponsored In 2013, the UK government heralded Cloud First, a ground-breaking strategy to drive cloud adoption across the public sector. Eight years on, and much of UK public sector IT still runs on-premises - and all too often - on obsolete technologies.

    Today the government‘s message boils down to “cloud first, if you can” - perhaps in recognition that modernising complex legacy systems is hard. But in the private sector today, enterprises are typically mixing and matching cloud and on-premises infrastructure, according to the best business fit for their needs.

    The UK government should also adopt a “consciously hybrid” approach, according to HPE, The global technology company is calling for the entire IT industry to step up so that the public sector can modernise where needed and keep up with innovation: “We’re calling for a collective IT industry response to the problem,” says Russell MacDonald, HPE strategic advisor to the public sector.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021