Navy

Royal Navy Controls New Autonomous Boat Remotely For First Time

It comes as the Royal Navy and Royal Marines look to expand their use of crewless and autonomous equipment.

The Royal Navy has controlled a new crewless fast stealth boat remotely for the first time.

Using a laptop and tablet, two sailors on land overlooking the water at Browndown Beach in Gosport operated the autonomous Maritime Demonstrator For Operational Experimentation (MADFOX) vessel in the Solent.

Until now, MADFOX, which the Navy received in March, had only been controlled by the Navy from on board.

The sailors were taught how to interpret the live feed from the boat's sensors and cameras – which includes a high-resolution zoom capable of identifying people on ships at a distance.

The boat was used to monitor shipping in the Solent from afar.

Commander Antony Crabb, in charge of NavyX, the team responsible for applying the latest technology used by the fleet, said "it’s not what we are used to" after standing watch on ships for years.

"It might seem like remote-controlled boats on a park lake," he said.

"However, this is a significant milestone as Navy personnel gain confidence in operating at speed and dislocated from the vessel.

"Lessons from these recent serials will be used to build ever more complex serials ahead of integration into Operational Experimentation activity, where the project will add tactical value, helping to shape the blended fleet of tomorrow," he added.

As a safety measure, some personnel were aboard the boat, but MADFOX's movements, speed and heading were controlled by the personnel ashore.

The command node is set to be integrated into future Royal Navy ships such as the next-generation Type 26 and Type 31 frigates.

It is hoped the autonomous boat and others like it could deploy alongside Navy ships, carrying out tasks from force protection to surveillance.

The investment in MADFOX comes as the Royal Navy and Royal Marines look to expand their use of crewless and autonomous equipment.

Cover image: MADFOX autonomous boat alongside (Picture: Royal Navy).