The US Military has the sort of budget that would make most other countries jealous. We’re always looking for newer and better ways to do the sorts of things that militaries do. To that end, the US Navy is currently working on their newest spy prototype – a robotic Bluefin Tuna named “Silent Nemo.” The goal of Silent Nemo is to spy and perform reconnaissance missions without drawing any unneeded attention. The thought is that a robot that looks like a fish,
tastes like a fish, and swims like a fish will draw less attention than traditional underwater drones, and be able to complete their missions inconspicuously.
Early results seem to be positive – Pilot Online spoke with some of the project leads, who are awfully happy with their progress:
“This is an attempt to take thousands of years of evolution – what has been perfected since the dawn of time – and try to incorporate that into a mechanical device,” said Jerry Lademan, a 27-year-old Marine captain who’s leading the project. The idea is to “essentially reverse-engineer what nature has already done.”
“The first time I saw it, I thought it was a living fish,” Lademan said. “It looks alive. It’s crazy.”
Reverse-engineering aside, if you don’t look too close, and maybe squint just a little bit, the current model (seen above) might be able to pass for a tuna. Silent Nemo might even be able to fool those being spied on, provided they don’t know much of anything about tuna. For one thing, tuna have been known to swim at speeds up to 47 mph, and are generally found in warm seas. Nemo’s intended purpose of spying on ports, scanning ships, etc. might not fit perfectly in a regular tuna’s modus operandi, but hopefully anyone that needs some up-close and personal spying won’t bother to learn about the thing swimming around their ports.
In reality though, something that looks like and moves like a fish would set off less red flags than current underwater drones. Most look like miniature submarines, which are pretty easy to pick up on scans and other surveillance methods. Even if Nemo never saw action in any hostile territory, effective underwater drones can always be used for duties that could potentially be harmful for humans. Silent Nemo should also be able to provide other services that were previously handled by trained dolphins, such as searching for mines, torpedoes, etc. That ought to make dolphins particularly happy that their military service could soon be over.
The Navy hopes to have Nemo in service at some point in the next year.