Revolutionary new unmanned boat tested

BAE Systems has tested revolutionary new unmanned boat technology near Portsmouth naval base.

BAE Systems have successfully tested new technology that removes the need for boats to be manned and could possibly change naval operations.

The new technology means that tasks such as reconnaissance and surveillance can be done remotely and without the need to put sailors in harm’s way.

Unmanned boat technology information from BAE Systems.
Unmanned boat technology information from BAE Systems.

With the ability to operate for up to 12 hours, reach 38 knots (44 mph) and follow a pre-planned route or via remote control, the modified boat has a wide range of applications.

The boats can operate as far away as from their parent ship as 40km, with the technology designed to be fitted to Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) that are already in use by the Royal Navy.

The system uses a 360° panoramic infrared camera array, navigation radar, a laser range finder, and other complex lasers to provide the operator a picture of the boats surroundings and view of things within a significant range of the vessel.

Product and training services director at BAE Systems,Les Gregory commented: “This technology delivers an extremely robust and fast-moving unmanned boat that is able to perform a number of surveillance and reconnaissance roles, even when operating at high speed or in choppy water.”

“BAE Systems has a wealth of experience in the development and integration of unmanned systems. The successful demonstration highlights the enhanced capability this technology offers. While other programmes are primarily designed for larger, slower boats to tackle mine counter-measure scenarios, this system provides an extremely manoeuvrable multi-role vessel.”

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The technology can be fitted to any Pacific 24 RIB that are deployed across Type 23 Frigates and Type 45 Destroyers.

Portchester-based unmanned and autonomous specialists, ASV provided the system and software algorithms for the new technology. BAE Systems have worked closely with ASV throughout the entire process to ensure the technology was properly integrated and prove the concept.

Moving forward with the development of the technology, the next step is to create the sensor suite before ensuring it is integration with the combat management system on the parent ship.

Managing Director of ASV, Dan Hook said: “The algorithms we’re developing with BAE Systems allow the boat to perform complex missions and navigate through waters avoiding collisions.

“This gives it the flexibility and sophistication to operate in a number of different tactical roles, whether it’s patrolling areas of interest, providing surveillance and reconnaissance ahead of manned missions, or protecting larger ships in the fleet.