US self-piloting ship christened by DARPA

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has christened a self-piloting ship. The demonstration vessel was developed and built through the US agency’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) programme.

The ACTUV is a “breakthrough in autonomous navigational capabilities”, states DARPA, as it has the potential to change the nature of US maritime operations. At-sea testing on a surrogate vessel has shown ACTUV’s autonomy suite is capable of operating the ship in compliance with maritime laws and conventions for safe navigation—including International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. ACTUV accomplishes this through advanced software and hardware that serve as automated lookouts, enabling the ship to operate safely near manned maritime vessels in all weather, traffic conditions and at day or night.

ACTUV is designed to normally operate under sparse remote supervisory control but can also serve as a remotely piloted vessel if the mission or specific circumstances require it. It can operate at a fraction of the cost of manned vessels deployed for similar missions.

Potential missions for the 130-foot twin-screw trimaran, christened Sea Hunter, include submarine tracking and countermine activities. Taking place in Portland, Oregon, the event marks the vessel’s formal transition from a DARPA-led design and construction project to a new stage of open-water testing to be conducted jointly with the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

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