Published: Aug 07, 2012 2:27 AM EDT
Updated: Aug 07, 2012 6:30 AM EDT

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) - Inspired by the success of the military's aircraft drones, the U.S. Navy is aggressively pursuing its own squadron of self-driven, undersea vehicles.

At the primary testing ground, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, engineers experiment with the gadgets in the sailboat-dotted waters of Narragansett Bay. One of them recently navigated its own way from Woods Hole, Mass., to Newport, completing several pre-programmed tasks in what the military calls an unprecedented feat.

The Navy hopes its drones will eventually pilot themselves across oceans. The vehicles are already used to detect mines and map the ocean floor. With tweaks over the next several years, the military says they will be applied more to intelligence gathering and, in the more distant future, anti-submarine warfare.