Ghost Fleet ship transits Panama Canal

One of the Pentagon’s two Overlord large unmanned surface vessels conducted a first-ever Panama Canal transit, sailing thousands of miles from the Gulf Coast to California in a major test of autonomous systems with few reliability issues along the way, the chief of naval operations told US Naval Institue News.

The 59-metre USV, was converted from a regular high-speed craft to a USV prototype last year.

“During this voyage, the vessel travelled over 4,700 nautical miles, 97 percent of which was in autonomous mode — a record for the program. Ghost Fleet Overlord will continue fleet experimentation to inform the Navy’s unmanned concept development,” says Pentagon spokesman, Cmdr. Josh Frey.

Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, said there were “a couple of small casualties” during the voyage but that “we are learning, and what we are trying to do is develop a prototype with a very high degree of reliability that we can then double down on and scale.”

The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office operates two Overlord large USV prototypes that came out of the 2017 kickoff of the ‘Ghost Fleet’ effort. The vessels were converted to have autonomous navigation and engineering systems in early 2019, and late last year they advanced to Phase 2 of experimentation efforts says USNI.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.