Surface Forces: Robotic Armored Speedboats Challenge Sailors


December 22, 2009: A British firm has developed an armored, robotic speedboat that sailors can use for target practice. This enables sailors to learn how to aim their heavy machine-guns and small arms accurately enough to take down hostile speedboats quickly. The $45,000 FMTDs (Fast Marine Target Drones) move at up to 60 kilometers an hour, and are guided by remote (up to ten kilometers away) operators, using cameras in a moveable mast. The five meter (15.5 foot) boats have sensors that record hits. Data travels two ways between the operator (who can control up to six boats at a time) and the boats. Upgrades include a larger (6.2 meter) boat and a sensor system that can also count near misses.

Ship commanders have become alarmed at the threat from speedboats, and are scrambling to develop countermeasures. The problem off Somalia is pirates, who use the speedboats to get alongside merchant ships, so they can board and hijack them. A more ominous threat is found in Iranian, and terrorist, use of speedboats to get close enough to detonate suicide bombs. 





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