The United States Navy will employ a creative new approach to protecting its ships in narrow sea lanes. Using technology pioneered by the Mars Rover, the USN will employ armed, autonomous patrol boats. Isn't this kind of how Skynet started?

The Office of Navy Research completed a successful test of 13 drone boats back in August, according to Defense News. The squadron successfully escorted a ship up Virginia's James River, with five ships providing permanent protection while the other eight were tasked with investigating and then swarming a suspicious vessel.

"We have every intention to use those unmanned systems to engage a threat," research boss Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder told DN, adding that, "There is always a human in the loop of that designation of the target and if so, the destruction of the target."

Aside from removing the potential risk to sailors, the affordability of this project makes it even more appealing to the military's beancounters.

"We're talking thousands [of dollars]. We're not talking millions to adapt what we already have - existing craft in our fleet," Adm. Kludner said. "So we're not going out and buying new patrol craft."

The automated boats are 36 feet long and boast rigid inflatable hulls. They're armed with 50-caliber guns and other "non-lethal" equipment. Once fitted with the robotic systems, a single sailor could manage up to 20 vessels at a time, DN reports.

While it might be a bit until these boats are actually in action, this is one of the more appealing uses of drone technology that we've heard about. What are your thoughts? Have your say below in Comments.

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