You thought only drones could be autonomous? Well, you thought wrong. The US Navy teamed up with DARPA last year to put together what they called NOMARS or No Manning Required, Ship. The name is pretty self-explanatory. The NOMARs is a ship concept of a completely unmanned, autonomous, robotic ship.
It’s a pretty ambitious concept considering modern navy destroyers have crew members in the hundreds. But it seems that it is possible. The Office of the Secretary of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office or SCO, in partnership with the U.S. Navy, announced that one of their unmanned vessels traveled successfully 4,421 nautical miles or more than 5,100 land miles. The vessel, named NOMAD, completed 98 percent of the journey fully autonomous.
This isn’t even the first vessel to do this. The first was called RANGER that completed a similar route back in October last year. The Navy has dubbed the autonomous vessel program the Ghost Fleet Overlord program. Sounds pretty anime, to be honest, but it is a fitting name.
According to SCO Director, Jay Dryer, “This is another significant milestone for SCO’s Ghost Fleet Overlord program and supports the Navy’s Unmanned Campaign Framework by adding a second Overlord vessel to the West Coast. The SCO Ghost Fleet Overlord program serves to inform Navy prototype efforts by integrating mature technologies to accelerate Service priorities and is a key piece of the build a little, test a little, and learn a lot of philosophy articulated in the Navy Unmanned Campaign Framework”.
The Navy wants to make sure that the lives of their people are as safe as possible thus the only viable way is to make ships autonomous. The Ghost Fleet Overlord program was started back in September 2019 and two successful vessels later, it is now in Phase II. The program is expected to conclude in early 2022.
After the conclusion, both of the autonomous vessels will be transferred to the Navy where they will undergo another round of experimentations. Two additional Ghost Ships are being constructed as well. Meaning the Ghost Fleet may have a total of four ships.