The Lookout - Lewis Brisbois' Marine & Energy Newsletter - April 2021

Autonomous Vessels Are Now Receiving the Attention of the U.S. Navy

(April 2021) - The U.S. Navy has requested nearly $580 million for fiscal year 2021 for the research and development of multiple types of autonomous vessels, which are described simply as unmanned vessels (UVS). In a report to Congress, the Navy shared the earlier development in fiscal year 2019 of what it calls extra-large undersea unmanned vessels being built by Boeing. 

One of the concerns being addressed by Congress is how to avoid an increased risk of strategic miscalculations at sea and escalation of military actions when unmanned vessels are involved. These concerns arise from both the technological aspects of the vessels and the human factor that attacking unmanned ships may seem less provocative in the initial phases of a conflict. 

As with civilian autonomous vessels in the commercial trades, the ongoing development of unmanned vessels for military use will be a growing part of the future of naval vessel procurement and development. 

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