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Navy's experimental drone ship passes through Panama Canal

Navy's experimental drone ship passes through Panama Canal
One of two unmanned Ghost Fleet Overlord test vessels takes part in a capstone demonstration in September 2019, pictured, while another vessel earlier this week was spotted transiting the Panama Canal as part of another test. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy

May 20 (UPI) -- Nomad, an experimental unmanned surface vehicle, passed through the Panama Canal en route to its new home port in California, the Navy confirmed.

USNI News reported that ship spotters had found evidence of the vessel's passage through the Panama Canal using data from MarineTraffic.com, and that a Navy official had confirmed the transit.

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The Navy did not provide comment on the transit, but web cameras at the Miraflores locks on the canal showed that Nomad -- a retrofitted offshore patrol vessel -- was heading toward the Pacific as of Tuesday night.

Ship spotters said the Nomad was underway in the Gulf Coast and traveled as far away as Norfolk, Va., for testing.

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In January, the Pentagon announced that one of the two ships involved in the Ghost Fleet program had recently traveled a distance of more than 4,700 nautical miles, almost entirely autonomously, and then participated in an exercise where it spent nearly all of its underway time operating autonomously.

The vessel was one of two ships known to have been created for the Pentagon's Strategic Capabilities Office's Ghost Fleet Overlord program to test the viability of at-sea autonomous ships.

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In 2019, as it entered the second phase of the program, the Navy awarded contracts to two industry teams to work on integration of command-and-control systems and payloads for the vessels.

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The Pentagon has not disclosed information about the cost of the program or the contractors involved, citing special contracting rules, according to USNI.

On Thursday, Huntington Ingalls Industries announced that it had debuted another unmanned surface vessel, the Proteus, off the coast of Panama City, Fla., last week.

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