Skip to Content

DARPA’s Autonomous Ship Is Patrolling the Seas with a Parasailing Radar

Forget self-driving cars—this is the robotic technology that the military wants to use.
October 25, 2016

California may be the home of Google’s robotic cars, but just off the coast, DARPA is testing technology that puts the search giant’s trundling little autonomous marshmallows to shame.

The defense agency’s robotic ship—the Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, to those in the know—has been running sea trials on its new radar system. But the technology doesn’t sit aboard the ship: instead, it’s slung behind it on a parasail in order to reach heights of between 500 and 1,500 feet.

Tests show that the extra altitude boosts the radar’s effectiveness, vastly extending its range beyond what's possible when it’s simply fixed to a ship’s mast. DARPA believes this is what the future of naval warfare looks like: drone boats out patrolling in potentially hostile waters, while manned boats remain out of harm’s way for as long as possible.

DARPA isn’t alone in building robotic ships, though. Between initiatives to develop autonomous taxi boats in Amsterdam, data-collecting trimarans in California, and autonomous tugs in Boston, self-sailing boats are taking to the water all over the world.

(Read more: DARPA, “Fleets of Robotic Boats Are Getting Ready to Set Sail”)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

biomass with Charm mobile unit in background
biomass with Charm mobile unit in background

Inside Charm Industrial’s big bet on corn stalks for carbon removal

The startup used plant matter and bio-oil to sequester thousands of tons of carbon. The question now is how reliable, scalable, and economical this approach will prove.

AGI is just chatter for now concept
AGI is just chatter for now concept

The hype around DeepMind’s new AI model misses what’s actually cool about it

Some worry that the chatter about these tools is doing the whole field a disservice.

Peter Reinhardt
Peter Reinhardt

How Charm Industrial hopes to use crops to cut steel emissions

The startup believes its bio-oil, once converted into syngas, could help clean up the dirtiest industrial sector.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.