Hyundai picks Palantir to help it build automated navy ships

Reconaissance vessels first, then set a course for armed drones

South Korean industrial giant HD Hyundai's maritime arm announced on Sunday it will collaborate with controversial software developer Palantir Technologies to develop an unmanned surface vessel (USV) that can conduct reconnaissance for the world's navies.

Further work on combat drone boats will come later, according to HD Hyundai (which was spun off from its parent Hyundai Group in 2002).

"Previously developed USVs were difficult to operate in rough environments such as high waves, and had limitations that did not meet the mission performance capabilities of manned ships," explained HD Hyundai in a press release published Monday.

"Through this agreement, the goal of both companies is to develop a differentiated model by combining accumulated autonomous navigation technology with cutting-edge defense AI."

The tech may seem futuristic, but robotic boats are already employed for tasks including removing trash from Vietnam's Mekong Delta and monitoring underwater volcanos.

HD Hyundai called the venture "a game changer in future naval warfare," and positioned Palantir as a "defense AI" company.

The duo plan to combine autonomous navigation software from HD Hyundai subsidiary Avikus and Palantir. HD Hyundai Heavy Industries will be in charge of integrating the hardware and software, and developing the hull.

Looking forward, HD Hyundai and Palantir want to optimize their USV model for the US and Korean markets, and develop an AI-powered platform to manage the vessels.

It was not specified whether that AI platform would make a remote operator redundant.

HD Hyundai CEO Wonho Joo enthused that his partnership with Palantir would "pioneer this field based on the achievements and trust that both companies have built up so far."

He was alluding to previous collaborations – including a $20 million five-year deal for the digital transformation of South Korean shipbuilders.

Palantir does plenty of work for military agencies: it recently won a $178 million US Army contract to build a mobile battlefield intelligence system.

It also offers analytics wares, such as those acquired to power the NHS Federated Data Platform. That deal earned criticism amidst fears Palantir could gain access to sensitive data. And who can forget allegations that Palantir helped Cambridge Analytica to analyze its ill-gotten data? ®

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