Much of the recent technological progress in robots and drones has been because there are potential military applications. Ethicists are worried that future wars could involve autonomous weapons capable of firing on real people. Although unarmed, the US Navy has taken a further step towards that future with a new ship that might be the biggest robot ever made.
Yesterday DARPA christened their Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV). This one has been named “Sea Hunter”, hinting at its job of hunting enemy submarines. The ship has controls so it can be piloted by sailors if the need arises, but will be setting off to sea with nobody aboard.
At sea, the ship is programmed to locate submarines and follow them. Two of the ships can even work together to make sure they don’t lose it. At the moment the ships have no weapons so their job is to find the submarines so the other ships can potentially deal with them. But there’s no guarantee things will always be this way. Being able to launch weapons that could be lost without the risk of losing human lives would be of great benefit to any military force.
You can see the ship in action here:
Main image © DARPA