Watch these self-driving boats get in formation - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Dec. 14, 2016 10:31 am

Watch these self-driving boats get in formation

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab is experimenting with autonomous swarming boats. They've got video.

Autonomous boats swarming.

(Still via JHU APL)

The roads aren’t the only place where research is advancing on autonomous vehicles.

Laurel-based Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory is experimenting with self-driving boats. This week the APL released footage of the boats, known as swarming unmanned surface vessels.

The experiment is designed to push the speed to about 40 mph and grow the number of boats to six. It’s also pretty compelling to watch the boats swarm in formation:

APL worked on the experiment with the Surface Targets Branch of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in Port Hueneme, California. The September experiment was the result of about a year of internal research.

Taking commands from systems developed at APL, the boats successfully performed tasks like “cooperative persistent search, target detection and tracking, rendezvous, pursuit, and escort,” APL reports.

“To our knowledge, this represents the first time that six autonomous vessels have ‘swarmed’ at tactically relevant speeds,” said Jim Horris, APL program manager for Autonomy Test and Evaluation.

The boats did have a person onboard, but it was just a precaution.

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Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is Market Editor for Technical.ly Baltimore and Technical.ly DC. A graduate of Northeastern University, he moved to Baltimore following stints in New Orleans and Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Baltimore Fishbowl, NOLA Defender, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune and the Rio Grande Sun.

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