Soon, dolphins and sea lions won’t be hunting mines any more. The U.S. Navy is phasing out the Marine Mammal Program. Though trained sea mammals have been serving the Navy for 50 years, they’re retiring to make way for cheaper, easier-to-manage robots.
Dolphins use sonar-like echolocation–essentially, seeing with their ears–which makes them beasts at finding mines in water. After training the animals, they also have to be taken care of for the rest of their lives, which is costly. So let’s feel free to let technology take over here. Development of the Knifefish, a torpedo-like unmanned underwater vehicle, is underway and should be completed by 2017.