This post originally appeared on Business Insider by Eloise Lee and Robert Johnson.
High-flying drones have been getting a ton of attention lately, with all the expensive research and development that is going into crafting the stealthiest, or the longest-lasting, or the most capable unmanned aerial vehicle.
Coinciding with news that China is betting big on its new naval-based aerial drones, U.S. defense contractor Textron demonstrated a vessel Thursday in New Orleans that navigates and patrols the high seas on its own.
The Common Unmanned Surface Vessel has previously been tested out by the Navy during its Trident Warrior trials, the annual fleet experiment for trying out "advanced capabilities" and combat techniques.
It's the time of year when the Navy gets to go all out with experimental modern warfare hardware and tactics. Textron said before Trident Warrior 2011 that its seafaring drone will demonstrate "robotic naval warfare."
Without requiring an onboard crew — and risking the lives of sailors — an unmanned surface vessel would carry out missions dealing with "mine countermeasures, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance."
The drone can also send out warnings to unidentified vessels with unknown intentions, "serving as the Navy's eyes and ears, — and occasionally it's voice."
Textron says, "The unmanned vessels will keep the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs away from our personnel." While not the first unmanned boat, it is the first one designed without a crew in mind and not just fitted with remote controls.
The new vessel can be controlled by satellite with a range of up to 1,200 miles and can be launched from any Navy ship.