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Navy’s ‘Silent NEMO’ Robot Fish Spies From the Sea

Silent Nemo testing
A variant model of the GhostSwimmer vehicle ashore at Virginia Beach. / U.S. Navy / MC3 Edward Guttierrez III

It's a shark! In... a wetsuit? The Navy's latest unmanned vehicle is the seagoing GhostSwimmer, which looks and swims like a large fish. But unlike real fish, this one is kitted out for "low-visibility intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions" like inspecting shores for enemies or friendly hulls for damage. Developed for a Navy rapid innovation project called Silent NEMO, GhostSwimmer weighs about 100 pounds and is 5 feet long.

GhostSwimmer being tested in waters off Virginia Beach. MC3 Edward Guttierrez III / U.S. Navy / MC3 Edward Guttierrez III

"It swims just like a fish does, by oscillating its tail back and forth," said Michael Rufo, director of Boston Engineering, which began work on the vehicle under a Navy grant way back in 2008. At the time, it was called RoboTuna, but perhaps the Navy felt GhostSwimmer was a more appropriately imposing name. It's intended to take over for divers and sailors who would otherwise have to suit up and go out themselves, much like UAVs have replaced many manned recon flights. The team has been testing its performance in various tides, currents and weather conditions, but there are no plans to deploy the underwater drone just yet.

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—Devin Coldewey