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Robotics United States Technology

New Robots Hunt Pirates by Sea 207

mattnyc99 writes " takes a peek into the growing world of high-tech piracy on the open seas, which the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard are looking to cut off by investing in a new fleet of superfast, gun-mounted unmanned surface vessels (USVs). From the article: "The Interceptor is available now. But the USV market is just getting started: Two months ago, British defense firm Qinetiq debuted its own robotic vessel, the jetski-size Sentry. Among its potential duties is intruder investigation, which could include scouting out unidentified boats, along the lines of the raft that detonated alongside the USS Cole in Yemen, as well as offering a first look at a possible pirate-controlled vessel.""
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New Robots Hunt Pirates by Sea

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  • I feel safer already (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yotto ( 590067 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @09:16PM (#21191413) Homepage
    What could possibly go wrong? I mean, I'd love my cruise ship to get checked out by the naval equivalent of ED-209.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @09:17PM (#21191425)
    It's only a matter of time. They crank 1000 of these onto the ocean, the hackers go "oh, hey, wait a minute!" and bam, they've got 1000 gun mounted boats at their disposal, patched of course, so the same trick can't work twice.

    This shit is getting fucking unreal.
  • Re:Keep it a Secret (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bombastinator ( 812664 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @09:40PM (#21191607)
    Ironically yes.

    They have done tests using examples of police uniforms and asking citizens what type of uniform made them feel most secure. They ranged from the wildly florid with knee high leather boots and helmets and epaulets and whatnot, to guys in blue blazers with all their gear hidden under the coats.

    The overwhelming winner were the uniforms with as much testosterone laced leather froo-froo as could be sewn to them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:05PM (#21191769)
    Well, it isn't as simple as making a PC a zombie. For example - who is going to add gas, oil, maintenance etc. to a zombied boat? Oh, I know - 10 of them show up at a port and demand gas or they blow the place? That would be a good one.
  • This is stupid (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Deliveranc3 ( 629997 ) <deliverance AT level4 DOT org> on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:15PM (#21191817) Journal
    How long until these things ARE THE PIRATES!

    "THIS VESSEL IS A SATELITE CONTROLLED DRONE... PROVIDE 64 bank account access codes or it will OPEN FIRE! Your airwaves are being monitored!"

    If this tech spreads into the world of piracy an isolated problem for the super rich may start striking all boaters... My sailing dingy is NOT bulletproof.
  • Modern day piracy... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:51PM (#21192101) Journal
    Most piracy today, typically has help of an inside man.

    Typically it will be at night, in the straights south of Singapore. 4-5 guys suddenly appear with big machetes, and they know where to be because the inside guy told them when and where. Oh, yeah, the traitors are on watch at the time...

    Cell phones and text messages work for good and ill.

    I am an gung-ho as the next guy, but If I am one seaman in a crew of 12 on a small freighter and I don't know which of my mates are "in on it", shooting it out with the pirates in front and the traitors at my back is not worth it. Take the stuff, it is not mine anyhow.

    Seriously, if you want to stop piracy, shipping companies need to do better background checks on their employees.

  • by Radon360 ( 951529 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:32PM (#21192371)

    Well, for engagement, I'd certainly agree with your point, but for surveillance, I'd think the platform would have a number of advantages.

    The first one is stealth, if it's capable of hiding in between the seas, then you'll have a heck of a time picking it up on ship radar. Even if it is seen, it'll blend in fairly well with the sea clutter on the display. Helicopters and airplanes stick out like a sore thumb, both visually and on radar.

    The second is speed. Although they'd take a significant hit in higher seas, they can potentially put up with more banging and bouncing around than a human crew could ever take. And, with the unit being virtually encapsulated, seaworthiness is no longer an issue (the water it would take would be minimal).

    And as far as surveillance goes, couldn't a simple telescoping arm with a camera equipped with gyro-stabilized optics be employed? You couldn't use it effectively underway, but a slow/stop speed it would give you a decent vantage. I regularly use a 14x power set of gyro-stabilized binoculars and I can read boat registration numbers (3" high block letters) fairly easily from over a half-mile away in 5 foot sea conditions.

    Let's face it, Popular Mechanics likes to write fluff, and whatever they can do to make something sound more cool, sexy and manly is their primary M.O. Step back, look at the actual facts (in which there are few in this case) and not the claims of the marketing group, nor the speculation and opinions of the writers and the real potential uses start to become visible.

  • by mpe ( 36238 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:41AM (#21194443)
    For example - who is going to add gas, oil, maintenance etc. to a zombied boat?

    Pirates (the real kind) apparently have little trouble getting hold of fuel and munitions. Even in the days of sailing ships gunpowder didn't grow on trees...
  • by davidsyes ( 765062 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:56PM (#21198715) Homepage Journal
    Some of the robots will/may be equipped with various types of sensors: low-light, acoustical, shape-recognition, infrared, etc. For any pirates backed by corrupt local governments (or, distant ones with much to lose if piracy is crimped), it'll be inevitable and logical that "seduction mines" (influence/proximity/remote-detonation) will disrupt operations. Either some of these jet-ski-like sentries will be blown up, or they'll be diverted/distracted since the operators won't want to needlessly lose them. Sure, N/V equipment can help detect mines, and some of the newer USN subs have advanced optics capabilities (See: []

    for more information)

    but things have a potential to get hairy if the pirates get their hands on IR gear so they can "tempt" the operator to drive the sentry along a threat axis (or around a cove/down a strait/a channel/etc) and detonate a string of mines.

    Or, they can just dump flammables into the water and when the sentry slows down to do close-up looks, torch the thing. Hurling a flare or going the route of Joan of Arc with bows and arrows can give some stand-off distance between the flame-bath and the bad guys alongside/sidled up along the victim ship.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle