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Unmanned Cargo Ships: Will Drone Stocks Follow Rolls Royce In Latest Plan?


The idea to launch sea-faring drones has some obvious problems, but that hasn't stopped Rolls Royce from pursuing research.

So now we know what Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) thinks of Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) assertions that it will soon be able to ship its goods using drones. However, there's another company looking into the prospects for unmanned vehicles -- and it's already experimenting with ways to put the plan into practice.

The automaker Rolls Royce (OTCMKTS:RYCEY) is also an aerospace company, as it makes things like jet turbines and engines. It's been exploring the possibility of using drones to navigate sea vessels. Shipping via sea still accounts for 90% of the world's trade.

And the price of maritime shipping is still rather high. Roughly 44% of the operating costs of sea vessels used in shipping go toward supporting the people who work aboard them. After you deduct the cost of food, potable water, heat, etc., the ships weigh a lot less because there are no people on them. Which means you can ship even more stuff in one go.

This idea has obvious problems that will need to be worked out, which is why representatives from Rolls Royce think that the project won't be anywhere near ready within the decade. It has also already earned the enmity of the the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) -- which is the union that represents most of the one million seafarers worldwide.

They argue that real, live people are essential to moving goods across great distances. Changes in the weather, dangerous waters, and pirates -- these are things that require human judgment to navigate.

That won't stop Rolls Royce from trying, though. Will other drone stocks look into maritime shipping as well? We've gathered a list of stocks to watch in this space. Use the list below to begin your analysis.

Click on the interactive chart to view data over time.

1. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC): Provides products, services, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding, and technical service sectors. Market cap at $26.87 billion, most recent closing price at $122.12.

2. AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV): Designs, develops, produces, and supports unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and efficient energy systems for various industries and governmental agencies. Market cap at $740.61 million, most recent closing price at $33.25.

3. Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT): Designs and operates advanced technology systems in the areas of defense, space, intelligence, homeland security, and government information technology. Market cap at $53.15 billion, most recent closing price at $166.14.

4. Science Applications International Corporation (NYSE:SAIC): Provides technical, engineering, and enterprise information technology (IT) services in the United States. Market cap at $1.79 billion, most recent closing price at $36.58.

5. Textron Inc. (NYSE:TXT): Operates in the aircraft, defense, automobile, industrial, and finance businesses worldwide. Market cap at $11.06 billion, most recent closing price at $39.19.

6. General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE:GD): Provides business aviation, combat vehicles, weapons systems and munitions, military and commercial shipbuilding, and communications and information technology products and services worldwide. Market cap at $38.12 billion, most recent closing price at $108.76.

Editor's note: This story by James Dennin originally appeared on Kapitall.

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