In the not-too-distant future, the U.S. Navy could be hunting subs and protecting ships using robotic, inflatable boats. That's the plan, at least, from a team of American and Israeli defense contractors.The Navy and Coast Guard already use a bunch of rigid-hull inflatable boats to zip across choppy waters and brings SEALs to shore. The services have "high hopes" that unmanned inflatables could handle even more jobs, C4ISR Journal says. Like spotting mines and subs, for example.
The advantage of using an unmanned surface vehicle in these roles, Rear Adm. William Landay III noted, is that it will be able to operate autonomously for an extended period of time perhaps 24 hours and at night, when the Navy normally doesnt do towing [sonar arrays] with helicopters. We may not even find an enemy submarine [but] it may keep him out of where you want, and in the littorals [coastal waters] that in many cases is just as good as finding him.United Defense Industries and Haifa-based Rafael Armament Development Authority are trying to convince the Navy that their Protector unmanned surface vehicle is the right robo-boat for the job. The 30 to 35 foot-long Protector can skip across the seas at speeds of up to 40 knots. Day and night cameras, a laser range finder, and a 12.7 mm machine gun all come standard. "A light projector, public address system and a microphone," are optional, according to Defense Daily. The Israeli Navy is already trying one out, a Rafael spokesperson tells DD.