This is not your father's remote-controlled boat.
Qinetiq's Sentry is a unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance craft that the company says "boasts an advanced stealth design" and can hit speeds of up to 50 knots. Only now it's just a little less stealthy as it gets its first public demonstration at DSEi, the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition, taking place this week in London.
We're not exactly sure how Qinetiq will perform the demonstration. The Sentry is much bigger than a rubber ducky, or dinghy even. It's 11.5 feet from stem to stern and has a beam (its widest part, for you landlubbers) of just over 4 feet, and certainly would need some running room. When it gets running, the company says, it can go for about 6 hours.
Whatever the demo actually entails, it's certainly worth a closer look. The Sentry's operator uses a PC-based console for remote control, including non-line-of-sight operations of up to 16 miles. It can also operate autonomously. The vehicle carries microwave data-link communications gear, a camera for day or night use, and a lighting rig that meets maritime navigation standards, according to the company.
Qinetiq says the Sentry combines its own research findings with "tried and tested commercial Jet Ski design"--we're assuming the company actually uses that brand of aquatic machinery and isn't, unlike many of us, rather too casual in using the brand name to describe generic gear that Jet Ski would prefer we call a "personal watercraft."
Missions for the Sentry, which stands just a little more than 3 feet above the waterline, could eventually include harbor patrol, battlefield recon and damage assessment.
But will it ever gain the sort of historical fame that now attends to PT-109 and John Kerry's Swift Boat? Only time will tell.