Staff, The Merkle
17 September 2017
The US military wants to explore every possible option when it comes to autonomous combat. Putting fewer trained soldiers in harm’s way makes a lot of sense and will certainly be appreciated by many people. However, not every type of military asset should be autonomous either. Submarines, for example, are very complex mechanisms which often require a full staff to maintain and operate properly.
Granted, there are smaller subs which can be operated by one person. It appears this is the main area of interest to the US Navy, at least for the time being. Its new competition involving unmanned submarines has attracted a lot of attention from defense manufacturers already. Interestingly enough, Boeing is one of the market leaders right now, thanks to the company’s 51-foot-long autonomous submarine called the Echo Voyager.
These autonomous watercraft can prove greatly valuable to any nation and military organization. It takes a very long time to train submarine personnel, who are often away from home for months on end. There is no ideal situation for any of the parties involved. Coming up with solutions to fully automate this concept will be pretty challenging in every possible way, but the companies exploring these opportunities are quite excited.
There is a lot more to the unmanned systems market than most people assume. Various startups are focusing on autonomous solutions which can be used for many different purposes. Submarines are very different from cars or even small aircraft, but it is not a new form of technology either. There will be initial limitations in terms of how large a submarine can be made autonomous, but as the technology evolves, more opportunities will be unlocked.
It will be particularly interesting to see how deep these autonomous submarines can dive. The main purpose of a submarine is to explore the oceans, which can be quite deep as we all know. A depth of anything less than 100 meters will not make any impact. However, companies have to start somewhere when it comes to developing these new technologies. There is still a lot of work to be done in this industry, but it is an intriguing concept regardless.
With the US military now focusing in this area as well, things will start to get pretty interesting moving forward. It would not be surprising to see other military organizations show a keen interest in autonomous submarines soon. Advances in robots and AI will affect every aspect of life, including the military. While most of these efforts will not see the replacement of humans right away, it is always worth the time to experiment with alternative technologies and see how things play out.