October 14, 2010

So who needs humans?

The Piranha USV

GOOGLE IS EXPERIMENTING in California with cars that drive themselves on public highways and freeways. Predator drones are flying all over Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan without pilots. And now we have a boat cruising around the Puget Sound without human crew of any kind.

It’s a 54-foot unmanned surface vessel known as the Piranha USV and it appears to be equipped with guided missiles, though it could be used for all kinds of clandestine operations according to the manufacturer, Zyvex Technologies, of Columbus, Ohio.

It has twin diesel engines and it’s very fast and if it doesn’t like you, you’re in big trouble. It is, of course fitted with the latest in technology. Understandably, there’s an air of secrecy about this strange-looking camouflaged boat as it takes itself out on test trials off Seattle, and presumably tells itself what’s wrong with itself. But I imagine it will have GPS, AIS, radar, sat-phone, various radio transmitters and receivers, and lord knows what other electronic surveillance equipment I haven’t even heard of, plus a big, red, self-plunging button for launching the missiles.

It is undoubtedly a drug-runner’s dream come true; but it occurs to me that ordinary yachtsmen might also benefit from this extraordinary craft, which represents the very latest advances in science and technology.

Just imagine, if you will, how exciting it would be to send your very own Piranha around the world by remote control. You wouldn’t even have to move from your computer screen as your personal Piranha sends back pictures of where it is and what it’s doing.

You could ogle all those young women in grass skirts and coconut bras in the South Pacific and not get into trouble with your wife. You could double Cape Horn the wrong way in the middle of winter, as close as you like, and get to wear a gold ring in your ear.

Trouble with pirates? Har, har, har. Blast them out of the water with your rocket launcher while you sip a cold beer in your recliner chair.

You’ll never need to worry about hurricanes. You won’t ever fall out of the dinghy and drown. You won’t ever get too hot or too cold or too wet, or drop your last wrench into the bloody bilge. You’ll never need to get into an argument about who’s anchored too goddam close to whom. Just nuke ’em.

And this may be best of all — no seasickness. Imagine that. No seasickness. All the way around the world. Never a nasty twinge from the tum-tum. Never a green tinge to the chops or a mouth like the bottom of a bird cage.

What is the word for enjoying things through another’s experience? I forget. Is it serendipity? Nope. Ah, wait, it’s coming back. Vicarious. Now you can circumnavigate the globe in your own boat vicariously.

Gawd, I think to myself, science is just too wonderful. What incredible progress we’re making. Where will it all end?

Today’s Thought
A single breaker may recede; but the tide is evidently coming in.
— Macaulay, Essays

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #107
Best color for a boat. If you’re thinking of resale value, then the best color is white. Herreshoff said there are only two colors for a yacht, black and white, and only a fool would paint a boat black.

“Can you give me a description of the man who assaulted you?”
“I was doing that when he knocked me down.”


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

..in this world of un-manned yachts/boats I thought this was far more heart warming..


.."a maximum speed of 4 knots but with a 2.5 knots average speed" and no machine guns to be seen... :o))

John Vigor said...

Steve, I couldn't follow your link, but I think you may be referring to the Jewel of Muscat, a 9th century replica of an Arab sailing ship and its voyage to Singapore:


John V.

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Ah - sorry John - yes that's a UK newspaper.. try this one instead...


Aaron Headly said...

Here's Steve's link in a format that might work better. It's to a story about an entrant in an upcoming robot-boat race.

John Vigor said...

Thanks guys, very interesting story. I'm wondering about collisions. The law says a ship must keep watch. Is someone going to be monitoring a lookout screen somewhere 24 hours a day?

John V.

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

...I thought that as well - they don't mention how regular a watch they're keeping... Somewhat charmingly they don't think the robot/boat will last more than a few days, but it's not small... it's based on a Topper Topaz and they are almost 3 meters long... if I clonked that in my little 19 footer I'd sure know about it...!

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

...and so the story ends.... shame...


..on the other hand I wonder what they would have done if it had actually made it!? Can you imagine it sailing into Newport Harbour... :o)