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NATO’s Center for Maritime Research and Experimentation, based in La Spezia, Italy, has revealed an ability it has been working on for quite some time: detecting fast fast boats with two unmanned maritime vehicles. The surveillance system uses two vehicles simultaneously, one above the surface of the water whereas the other one moves underwater. With a passive sonar system, the vehicles have managed to detect small and fast motor boats which usually manage to escape radars, as they are too small and too fast.
NATO’s research labs claim that this is the first time anywhere in the world that an acoustic detection system, moving underwater without the physical presence of a person, is presented to the public. In the future, the statement adds, an unmanned maritime vehicle could take part in continuously scanning maritime areas.
At first the system was developed to be used in deep sea, but researchers have added an ability to operate in shallow coastal water by adding inexpensive daylight and thermal cameras and radar systems to the platform, allowing it to operate at nighttime.
If unmanned vehicles so far have been suited to operate in the air, on land and on the surface of water, here we have a vehicle that can operate in a dive. Although other vehicles get most of the focus, it doesn’t mean that different laboratories have not been developing unmanned platforms to be used in ways we haven’t thought of before.