Robotic ships are the stuff of science fiction and the United States Navy. In 2016, the Navy christened Sea Hunter, a 132-foot-long, fully autonomous vessel designed to patrol the ocean and look for submarines lurking beneath the surface. Sea Hunter is the culmination of a six-year-long project by DARPA and the Office of Naval Research to make a ship that can do a job all on its own, reporting back to human controllers without any onboard crew. If Sea Hunter was the proof of concept, Rolls-Royce wants to transform unmanned ships from a single novelty into a major part of navies around the world.
Rolls-Royce (not the car company) released a concept for an autonomous naval vessel last week, one that would be powered by Rolls-Royce engines and controlled by its own systems. The concept vessel has a range of 3500 nautical miles, a top speed over 28 mph, a displacement of 770 tons, and will be able to operate for at least 100 days at a time. It is envisioned as a platform in the truest sense: a body for naval missions, that can incorporate and perform any number of missions, depending on the special equipment installed.