BAE Systems has concluded initial tests on an unmanned boat technology that reportedly has the potential to revolutionise naval missions.
The company has stated that the ‘first of its kind’ autonomous vessel will be able to travel ‘further, for longer and to more inhospitable environments’.
Completion of trials of the company’s unmanned Pacific 950 (P950) Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) demonstrator has improved the readiness of the technology, BAE Systems stated.
BAE Systems developed the demonstrator in collaboration with industry experts from L3Harris and MSI Defence Systems.
The presence of automated navigational decision-making technologies in the unmanned boat will allow operators to focus their efforts on mission-critical information.
The autonomous technology can be retrofitted to existing RIBs such as the Royal Navy BAE Systems-built Pacific 24 to increase the capability of warships.
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According to the company, the P950 is designed to operate for up to ten days at ‘patrol speed’ or 300nm in pursuit mode at a maximum speed of up to 45k.
The boat can achieve this in remote-controlled or semi-autonomous mission.
BAE Systems’ Maritime Services business chief technologist Mike Woods said: “This technology represents a huge step forward in the interaction between human and machine, combining sophisticated autonomous technology with human capabilities to overcome many of the challenges faced in difficult conditions at sea.
“The boat keeps sailors out of harm’s way whilst allowing them to respond to the increasingly varied, often unpredictable scenarios they face every day, and aids faster decision making in complex and ambiguous situations.”
The P950 RIB is armed with a weapons system, developed by MSI Defence Systems with BAE Systems, and an array of sensors.
The company introduced the technology on an experimental basis in 2015. The autonomous boat technology was previously trialled during the Royal Navy’s Unmanned Warrior exercise off the coasts of Scotland and West Wales in 2016.
Over the coming months, BAE Systems will focus on testing the capability of the technology to allow for integration with existing naval combat management systems.
The P950 is set to showcase its capabilities during Nato Exercise REPMUS to be conducted in Portugal later this year.
Woods added: “For the past four years we have been working in collaboration to develop this ‘first of its kind’ technology. We are proud to have matured autonomous maritime technology significantly, positioning the UK as a forward thinker in this unique space and providing a crucial advantage where it counts.”