Navies around the world are worried about the proliferation of mines, and for good reason. With so much of the world’s trade being shipped in massive tankers, the threat that would stem from mining a strategic trading route is obvious.

That’s why the US Navy is developing robotic ships that can trick mines into detonating themselves.  Sounds easy enough, but these aren’t your Grandad’s old mines that exploded only on impact.

Recently built mines can sense when a ship is near, either by listening for a ship’s acoustic signature or by detecting the magnetic properties of a ship’s hull.  Unlike the old days, navigators can’t simply drive around the mines because they aren’t necessarily visible.

The Navy’s project is named the UISS But how can a “robo-boat” destroy more than one mine? Well, its on-board electronics are designed to send false signature signals to any mine it detects to trick the mine into detonating. By maintaining a safe distance the robot boat would move safely from mine to mine before returning to its mother ship.(Unmanned Influence Sweep System) and includes a robotic boat that can be launched to search for mines.  The robot boats are designed to be launched from a Littoral Combat Ship, the Navy’s “close to shore” cruiser.

Already past the proof of concept phase, the Navy is looking for contractors to create the UISS for each of its 52 Littoral Combat Ships.

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Kenya Engineer is the definitive publication of Engineers in East Africa & beyond and the official journal of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya. Kenya Engineer has been in publication since 1972.

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