DARPA turns drone ship development over to the Navy

Sea Hunter could become a new class of vessel under the Navy.

DARPA has completed its part in the development of Sea Hunter, a submarine-hunting drone ship that can cross the open seas without a human crew for months at a time. It has officially handed over the ship's development to its project partner, the Office of Naval Research, which has already begun fine-tuning the drone's autonomous features. The Navy has also renamed the drone to Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV)... which really isn't any better than its old name, Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel or ACTUV. We've got a feeling people will stick to calling it Sea Hunter, unless the Navy can come up with a snappier nickname.

Defense contractor Leidos started building Sea Hunter in 2014. DARPA then conducted speed tests in April 2016, christening the 132-foot self-driving ship "Sea Hunter" within the same month. The drone has the ability to hunt foreign-owned stealthy submarines, China and Russia are known for having big submarine fleets, in US waters -- hence, the name. However, it wasn't designed to equip weapons.

In DARPA's announcement, is said Sea Hunter could become a "new class of vehicle" under the Navy. The military division plans to conduct more testing in order to develop automat[ed] payload and sensor data processing, new mission-specific autonomous behaviors and autonomous coordination for multiple Sea Hunters. If the Navy wants to deploy a fleet of submarine-hunting drones, it needs to be able to add those capabilities to Sea Hunter's features, especially the last one.