US Navy tests unmanned speedboats that launch nano drones in Arabian Sea

The MANTAS T-12 is the latest in a line of unmanned boats, aircraft and ground vehicles under development

Unmanned speed boats were skimming across in the Arabian Sea on Wednesday, according to the US Fifth Fleet.

The Man-Portable Tactical Autonomous Systems (MANTAS) T-12 was filmed speeding across the waves at up to 45 knots — more than 80 kilometres per hour.

“This was the first unmanned/manned teaming activity under way for the US Fifth Fleet's new Task Force 59, established September 9 to accelerate unmanned system discovery,” the US Navy said on Twitter.

The US Navy said in September that the task force would also be exploring the use of unmanned boats and AI.

Ghost fleet

At a US Naval Institute conference in June, Bruce Hanson, the CEO of MARTAC, a Florida-based company that designed the T-12, said the point of the unmanned vessels was that without crews, they could endure long missions in difficult conditions, including hurricanes, which the boats had been tested in.

“We didn't really set any boundaries. We reinforced them, and then we had them running during hurricanes. We were driving these things all over the place," Mr Hanson said.

The remotely-operated T-12 is intended to serve as the eyes and ears of crewed vehicles.

Barely visible at long distances with such a low profile, the T-12 can be equipped with an array of monitoring and surveillance equipment, including sonar and infrared sensors that give the operator a 360° view.

It can also semi-submerge itself to be almost invisible, investigating threats such as mines, or infiltrating enemy forces — for example, terrorists who may be trying to attack boats in a harbour.

The T-12 can also serve as a tiny aircraft carrier, able to launch Black Hornet “nano drones” equipped with infrared cameras for low visibility situations and night operations, which have a flying time of 25 minutes and can be held in the palm of a hand.

Updated: October 20th 2021, 6:14 PM
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