MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - It can assist with search and rescue, map the ocean floor or be used for environmental monitoring. On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Bryant took a boat trip on the Mississippi Sound to watch a demonstration of an unmanned maritime system.
Bryant says the new technology could help expand Mississippi's blue economy. It's called the C-Worker Six, an unmanned, autonomous surface vehicle.
"She's one of a kind. It's the only industrial strength, oil field service boat," said Brian Anderson.
Bryant got a briefing on the benefits of an unmanned maritime system. Supporters of the new technology say the future is now. This vessel can be adapted for multiple uses, including public safety.
Michael Toscano is with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
"When you hear about a search and rescue called off, with an unmanned system, you can still operate. Those men and women can do that operation without endangering more people to try and find the people that are missing," Toscano said.
Bryant accepted an invitation to steer the vessel and was impressed with its flexibility. The governor says imagine if we would have had access to such a vessel the day after Katrina to monitor and mark debris in the water.
"The same thing with the spill. We would have loved to have gotten this vehicle out here the day after the spill to see what it looked like and continue to monitor it for months at a time, rather than just a snapshot," said Bryant.
Environmental applications like mapping the floor of the Mississippi Sound certainly interest the DMR.
"Habitat is what we're trying to manage, and if you don't know what that habitat looks like under the water, it can become really frustrating. So, the applications with this are really limitless for our agency," said DMR Director Jamie Miller.
"Once this starts touching people's lives, you'll start to see more and more of the adaptation to this, and it's not different than what we've seen with computers or cell phones or GPS or anything else that's come before us," said Toscano.
"We need to continue to monitor this water, this gulf, into the next hundred years. We're going to be able to use vessels like this to do that," said Bryant.
He says along with utilizing the unmanned vehicles for various applications, he'd love to see the vessels manufactured here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.