Are robot swarms the future of destroying sea mines?
There are an estimated 80,000 sea mines in the Baltic, according to NATO estimates, and they remain a problem elsewhere around the world. New partnerships exploring the potential for underwater drones swarms in detecting and eliminating these high-risk mines are emerging as technology in the areas improves. “On Dec. 21, Thales and Aquabotix announced a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the research and design of autonomous robot minesweepers. Formally described as a ‘rapidly deployable Mine Counter Measures (MCM), Rapid Environment Assessment (REA) and Military Hydrographic autonomous system mission solution,’ the robots the companies hope to collaborate on will be an alternative to sending humans immediately into the danger of aquatic unexploded ordnance. Acronyms aside, this robot has a much simpler, clearer title: the Swarm Diver, named because it will do just that. As described, a sort of mothership surface drone or underwater drone will release swarms of smaller autonomous underwater robots to scout, identify and ultimately neutralize discovered mines in littoral waters. Autonomy is key here, as communicating underwater is difficult and communicating with above-water assets from underwater especially tricky without an intermediary. Should the Swarm Diver project work as intended, swarms of autonomous robots could be the long-awaited answer to the enduring threat posed by autonomous explosives, new and old alike.”