Military

Britain demonstrates its new autonomous naval surface vessel

Britain’s next-generation autonomous surface vessel, an inflatable combination of drone and boat, had its first public display at a London military trade show on Wednesday.

The Pacific Rigid 24 Inflatable Boat, or PAC24, was tested at London’s Docklands on the Thames River, with the frigate HMS Argyll present and integrated in the new vessel’s data systems. The system, attached to PAC24 rigid inflatable boat, navigated the river bed, detecting possible threats and feeding information back to warship. Public tests will continue for the rest of the week.

The craft, 25 feet long, is designed to travel surrounding a naval task force, remote-controlled from a ship. It can identify mines and collect intelligence on other nearby ships in the water. With its integration with warships, its potential applications include anti-piracy operations, border control, intelligence gathering, maritime security and general protection. The vessel can travel up to 45 mph at patrol speed, or 100 mph in pursuit mode.

The craft was developed by BAE Systems, with funding from NavyX, the Royal Navy Autonomous Hardware Accelerator project, which began earlier this year with $92 million from the government’s Defense Transformation Fund.

“This is much more than an autonomous surface vessel demonstration for the Royal Navy,” said Cmdr. Sean Trevethan, NavyX director. “What we are doing is the first step of exploiting system architecture in a complex warship to integrate an unmanned system into the ship.”

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