The Navy has a new reconnaissance expert in its ranks with the not-so-fearsome name of Silent Nemo. As the Virginian-Pilot explains, this Nemo is actually a 5-foot, 100-pound robot that looks for all the world like a bluefin tuna. (Click on the V-P link to see images.) The idea is that it can swim in potentially hostile waters without raising suspicion, perhaps to look for mines, inspect the hull of a ship, or deliver sonar equipment. The Navy showed it off this week and expects the Nemo drones to be in operation next year. The "fish" was controlled by a joystick in the demonstrations, but it will be able to swim on its own eventually.
"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," says a Marine captain on the project. Nemo, which the Washington Post notes also goes by the names GhostSwimmer and "robo-tuna"—won't be equipped with weapons, though a Marine official didn't rule out the possibility down the road. "Let your imagination run wild," he tells the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. The project is being shepherded through the military's Rapid Innovation Cell, made up of young, tech-savvy Navy and Marine officers. (Read more Navy stories.)