If the U.S. Navy has it way, it will soon be able to predict pirate attacks against civilian ships by combining wind, wave, and water current data with human and surveillance intel, and feeding the mix into algorithms that take into account pirate tactics, the time of day they normally attack, and the range of their vessels.
This brew should—the Navy hopes—help produce maps that show the highest-risk areas, and may help thwart some of the growing number of attacks on commercial shipping off the coast of Africa and in the Indian Ocean. At least that’s the plan that James Hansen, an applied mathematician at the Naval Research Laboratory, explained to the Seattle Times. The Times reports that Hansen laid out some of his research at the American Meteorological Society meeting in Seattle earlier this week, and that the Navy “will begin testing Hansen's model next month to see if it proves useful in helping direct patrol vessels and warn commercial ships when the risk of attack is high.”
Last year was a busy one in international pirating, with 53 ships swiped and 1,181 crew members taken hostage in almost 450 attacks. The hotspot of course is off the Horn of Africa and Somalia, but Somali pirates have been pushing further out into the Indian Ocean as more ships from European Union Naval Force-Somalia patrol the area, aided by the U.S. Navy, South Korea, Russia, India, and others. Earlier this month South Korean commandos stormed a pirated ship, killing eight pirates and freeing 21 hostages.
The Navy’s new project couldn’t come at a better time, but even if the technology is perfected, it might not be put into widespread use. The Times notes that “at Monday's presentation, Hansen wasn't able to reveal any real data because U.S. intelligence about pirates is classified. The Navy would like to share the information with allies, Hansen said, but federal rules may prevent it.”
Pic: EU NAVFOR