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Who says drones have to be land- or air-based? Norway is testing autonomous boats

Why it matters to you

We've heard all about self-driving cars and are familiar with drones. But what about their sea-based counterpart? Those are being tested in Norway.

Autonomous cars are all the rage these days, but autonomous boats? While automobiles are certainly among the most popular forms of transportation, they’re not the only form. As we’ve begun to normalize the notion of a driverless future, other methods of transportation are looking to adopt the same concept. In Norway’s Trondheim Fjord, you can now find a testing site for water-based drones. Because land and air-faring machinery shouldn’t be the only ones having autonomous fun, right?

Despite officially opening late in 2016, it’s taken a while for business, which is to say testing, to pick up. But now, companies like Kongsberg Seatex, Marintek, Maritime Robotics, and Rolls-Royce Marine are all on-site to start putting their robotic and self-driving technologies to the open water.

Thus far, the fjord has seen tests for a variety of purposes, including navigation, collision avoidance systems, operational safety, and risk management projects. And as these tests continue, we may be drawing nearer and nearer to a human-less shipping industry, as large boats find their way across the ocean without the need for a crew. Perhaps this could even mean the automation of the fishing industry, or a whole host of other sea-based activities.

“As far as we know, there are no such test sites of this kind in the world so the Norwegian Coastal Authorities are taking the lead in a changing maritime world,” Kongsberg Seatex President Gard Ueland said last year upon the site’s opening, reports Engadget. “We will also see technology that has the potential to enable fully autonomous cargo vessels. Much of this will come from Trondheim, thanks to the unmatched maritime expertise here and our autonomous vehicles test bed.”

So get ready friends. Remote-controlled ships may soon no longer be toys that you sail in the park. Rather, they could be the transport that gets us from one country’s coast to another.