Self-driving Navy ship sails from San Diego to Hawaii and back with no one on board

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SAN DIEGO -- A self-driving, submarine-hunting Navy ship has sailed successfully from San Diego to Hawaii and back, Naval News reports.

The 132-foot ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, nicknamed "Sea Hunter," is designed to patrol the world’s oceans hunting and tracking enemy submarines -- and to do so without a single human aboard. The drone vessel can track an enemy submarine for thousands of miles and for months at a time.

The only time crew members set foot on the vessel during its journey to Hawaii and back was for "very short duration boardings" from an escort ship to check electrical and propulsion systems on the Sea Hunter. The Office of Naval Research, which led the test trip, declined an interview with and did not share the exact timing of the test voyage, "citing operational security concerns."

Sea Hunter

The latest achievement is one in a series of tests run during a two-year trial period that started in 2016. The tests will continue through 2019, according to Naval News.

"The recent long-range mission is the first of its kind and demonstrates to the U.S. Navy that autonomy technology is ready to move from the developmental and experimental stages to advanced mission testing," Gerry Fasano, the defense group president at Leidos, said in a release shared with the website.

FOX 5 first covered the Sea Hunter when the military showed off the $23 million vessel in San Diego in 2016.

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