The US Navy patents ‘sci-fi’ technology

Monday 15 February 2021

When a company or government agency patents a new invention, that patent is made public in return for the government protecting their intellectual property rights. Vice has reviewed some recently filed patents from the US Navy, giving us all an insight into some of the strange, cutting-edge technologies the US Military is working on. 

Amongst them is a compact fusion reactor that could power cities. Experts theorise that a functioning fusion reactor (at this stage just the stuff of Sci-Fi) would lead to cheap and ubiquitous energy for the world. 

Another patent that the navy has filed it for an ‘hybrid underwater craft’ that the Navy noted in their patent filing could travel across land, sea and outer space at incredible speeds. 

According to documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests, there was a massive bureaucratic fight within the Navy about the filing of these patents, with many believing that this technology wouldn’t work. Apparently the scientists working on it had to demonstrate that some of this technology was ‘operable’ to get Navy officials to sign off on filing the patents. 

It is amazing to think about the implications of this technology. The US Department of Defence has a history of pioneering technological breakthroughs – the internet, GPS, nuclear energy – and they may be at the starting point of revolutionising energy and transportation next. At the same time, all patent filings need to be taken with a grain of salt. Many companies file patents on ideas that never come to fruition – for example Amazon has patents on self-destructing delivery drones, underwater warehouses and many other ideas that are yet to be realised. These Navy patents may all remain the stuff of science fiction. But it is exciting to think about the possibilities if it is real.

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