This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
Sea mines left in place for decades are an enduring risk. There are plenty of sea lanes where live weapons of dead wars persist. In the Baltic, for example, NATO estimates there remain 80,000 sea mines, a number that’s been unchanged for nearly a decade.
However, clearing the sea from the dangerous refuse of the past can pose serious threat to human teams. This is why robotic solutions are sought around the globe for sea minesweeping.
Thales and Aquabotix have recently announced a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the research and design of autonomous robot minesweepers. Formally described as a “rapidly deployable Mine Counter Measures (MCM), Rapid Environment Assessment (REA) and Military Hydrographic autonomous system mission solution, the Swarm Diver robots the companies hope to collaborate on will be an alternative to sending humans immediately into the danger of aquatic unexploded ordnance.
As described, a sort of mothership surface drone or underwater drone will release swarms of smaller autonomous underwater robots to scout, identify and ultimately neutralize discovered mines in littoral waters. Autonomy is key here, as communicating underwater is difficult and communicating with above-water assets from underwater especially tricky without an intermediary, according to c4isrnet.com.
Should the Swarm Diver project work as intended, swarms of autonomous robots could be the long-awaited answer to the enduring threat posed by autonomous explosives.