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The United States is evaluating unmanned maritime surveillance technology in support of Coast Guard efforts to protect its maritime borders and commercially navigable waterways. 

The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology directorate (DHS S&T) teamed up with the Coast Guard, University of Southern Mississippi (USM), the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), and other stakeholders to “develop, acquire, evaluate, and test specialized, environmentally powered (wind and solar), multi-mission capable, unmanned surface and underwater vessels,” according to the DHS.

The effort aims to support the US Coast Guard’s mission of protecting the more than 153,000 km of maritime border shoreline and 24,000 km of waterways, seaports, and other commercially navigable waters.

The evaluation team initiated acceptance testing of six Triton unmanned vessels at USM’s Marine Research Center (MRC) at the Port of Gulfport. They will utilize MRC’s specialized lab facilities and waterfront access to evaluate the vessels’ capabilities in multiple areas, including navigation; surface, diving, and subsurface operations.

The vessels are capable of operating effectively for long periods of time using only wind and solar power. They provide a platform for cameras and advanced sensors to detect relevant anomalies and threats, according to the release.

S&T Program Manager Shane Cullen said “there are a number of autonomous vessels in the field that are utilized for both commercial and military applications. However, the Triton proposes to be able to navigate while submerged and rely solely on wind and solar power when on the surface. That could make it very useful for long-term maritime protection and law enforcement operations at sea.”