Imagine that you're enjoying a peaceful harbor tour, maybe in San Diego, gently rocking in the boat as the tour guide points out some scenic attraction. Suddenly, the tour boat is surrounded by at least five 11-foot boats waving the American flag, herding the tour boat to the side of the harbor.
When you look over the side to see what's going on, you notice something startling: There's no one in the boats.
This is the U.S. Navy's latest plan for safety, surveillance and security: Unmanned surface vessels, or USV for short. These boats are outfitted with gear that makes any boat capable of autonomously swarming with other similarly-outfitted vessels.
The technology that powers these boats and allows them to work together in a swarm formation is the same kind of technology that was developed for the Mars Rover. The boats are controlled using a system called the Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or CARACaS for short.