Autonomous Crewless “Ghost” Ships Have Hit The Seas

Empty “ghost” ships have been reportedly cruising between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans with no humans on board. But these uncrewed vessels aren’t being commanded by a gang of undead pirates hellbent on revenge and treasure. Instead, they are the latest autonomous ships being tested out by the US military.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), together with the US Navy, has recently confirmed the success of a second long-range journey of an autonomous ship.

The uncrewed vessel, named NOMAD, traveled 8,187 kilometers (4,421 nautical miles) from the Gulf Coast, passing through the Panama Canal, to the Pacific Coast. Remarkably, 98 percent of the journey was completed in autonomous mode, free from human command except for the taxing arm of the passage through the Panama Canal.

The vessel is part of the epically named Ghost Fleet Overlord program, which saw another autonomous vessel, RANGER, complete a similar transit in October 2020. While they’re keeping quiet on how the vessels actually work, it’s assumed they navigate using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. According to the US Navy, they’re currently testing both NOMAD and RANGER in order to “mature the autonomy systems, demonstrate system reliability, and explore employment concepts for coordinated operations with manned combatants.”