The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has completed successful trials of the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV), and transferred the technology to the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for further development. Dubbed Sea Hunter, the vessel could evolve into a new class of ship capable of deploying on long missions in open ocean, without a single human crewmember.

“ACTUV represents a new vision of naval surface warfare that trades small numbers of very capable, high-value assets for large numbers of commoditized, simpler platforms that are more capable in the aggregate,” said Fred Kennedy, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “The U.S. military has talked about the strategic importance of replacing ‘king’ and ‘queen’ pieces in on the maritime chessboard with lots of ‘pawns,’ and the ACTUV is a first step toward doing exactly that.”

Testing began in October 2016, continuing through last September. While ACTUV is still in the developmental stage, a similar Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel (MDUSV) could conceivably join the fleet sometime this year, according to DARPA.