The Pentagon’s Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) sea drone has been scheduled to undergo International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) testing in 2017.
The ACTUV is a 132-ft trimaran sea drone, designed to track down submarines of all kinds, from self-made Columbian drug subs to their full-scale military counterparts. According to DARPA, the drone is primarily self-controlled, with remote control being only an additional feature. COLREGS certification will prove the vessel will be safe for other ships in its vicinity, Littlefield explained.
Currently, ACTUV is not armed. When a submarine is detected, the drone will pursue it, signaling coordinates to the Navy command. The drone is expected to act either as an autonomous patrol unit, or as a part of Carrier Strike Group’s anti-submarine defense.
According to some US analysts, the payload of drug smuggling submarines has increased a hundredfold over past 15 years. While the crafts could only carry as much as a couple tons of cargo before, today these submarines, often made of fiberglass instead of metal, can deliver up to 100 tons.