Unmanned Service Vessel (USV) Tested On Thames
Navy

Royal Navy Robot Spy Boat Tested On Thames

Trials have taken place on the Thames for a Royal Navy boat designed for unmanned operation. The Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed (MAST) is...

Unmanned Service Vessel (USV) Tested On Thames
Trials have taken place on the Thames for a Royal Navy boat designed for unmanned operation.
 
The Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed (MAST) is an unmanned surface vessel (USV) based on a 'Bladerunner' hull shape.
 
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This design is meant to reduce fuel consumption, control pitch and roll motions, and reduce wake.
 
The 32ft boat can skim across the waves at more than 50kts to track high-speed targets, while navigating and manoeuvring around other vessels without the control of a human.
 
MAST is being developed by Portchester-based ASV Ltd, under research funding from the MoD's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), providing a testbed to host a range of new maritime autonomous systems and tactics for employing them. 
 
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The UK-designed and built MAST is one of over 40 autonomous systems taking part in the Unmanned Warrior 2016 exercise this autumn, off West Wales and NW Scotland and the Western Isles.
 
Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said:
"The growing scale of Unmanned Warrior is a clear demonstration of the Royal Navy’s ambition to lead and win through technological innovation. Unmanned maritime systems will change how we operate, but they’re just the start. Our pursuit of new technologies and ideas – from big data to 3D-printing – will ensure we remain one of the most capable and successful navies in the world."
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The level of autonomy can range from basic remote control up to autonomous navigation. 
 
The craft is designed to operate autonomously in an unmanned mode, sensing other vessels in the immediate vicinity and avoiding them in a safe manner, complying with internationally-mandated collision regulations. 
 
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When operating on a busy waterway (such as the Thames), the craft is steered by a human on board, ready to take control. 
 
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It does not carry weapons, but is designed to explore autonomous capabilities and support non-lethal surveillance and reconnaissance roles.
 
The work is funded through Dstl (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory), who conduct research on behalf of the Royal Navy (and the other UK Armed Forces).  
 
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Fleet Robotics Officer Commander Peter Pipkin said:
"This is a chance to take a great leap forward in Maritime Systems – not to take people out of the loop but to enhance everything they do, to extend our reach, our look, our timescales, our efficiency using intelligent and manageable robotics at sea."