Navy Trained Mine Hunting Dolphins To Lose Their Jobs To Robots

on December 3, 2012 5:03 AM EST

Navy Trained Mine Hunting Dolphins To Be Replaced By Robots
Navy Trained Mine Hunting Dolphins To Be Replaced By Robots (Photo: Reuters)

US Navy is famous for using aquatic mammals like dolphins and sea lions to track mines under the ocean floor and patrol the borders. Come 2017, US Navy is considering replacing 80 dolphins with technologically advanced robots to do the job. These dolphins will be replaced by an unmanned vehicle to track mines and the dolphins will be assigned to work alongside the sea lions for port security and retrieving of objects from the ocean floor.

"Because of the unique capabilities of the marine mammals in the shallow water environment, there are several critical missions that they perform that cannot be matched by technology or hardware in the near-term. While the Navy is working on developing replacement technologies, there is no definitive pathway charged for a full replacement of the operational use of marine marine mammals," says James Fallin, US Navy's spokesperson as told to UT San Diego.

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Using aquatic mammals is an ambitious $28 million project started by the US Navy in 1950s, which also included sharks and a killer whale. Eighty bottle-nosed dolphins and 40 sea lions are used right now by the US Navy, reports AP.

Dolphins are known to have high accuracy in sound navigation and sound propagation under water and the Navy has trained these mammals to find and mark mines. Dolphins can dive down 500 feet with ease.

US Navy has deployed these dolphins in Bahrain and Iraq waters for patrolling and to mark the location of mines, in the past.

These dolphins travel in large movable pools aboard navy ships. In 2003, these dolphins also travelled in the amphibious ship Gunston Hall to Iraq.

 Navy's dolphins are stationed at Point Loma Naval Base and a few of them guard Navy submarines in Georgia and Washington, according to UT San Diego.

The US Navy recruits the dolphins and sea lions for life. Once these dolphins retire from active service, they are loaned out to water theme parks, such as Sea World, reports AP.

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