Rolls-Royce has unveiled plans to develop an autonomous single role naval vessel that would be capable of operating at a range of 3,500nm.

The 60m-long naval ship will feature a displacement capability of 700t and has been designed to carry out a wide range of single role missions such as patrol and surveillance, mine detection, and fleet screening.

The new remote vessel concept will be able to operate beyond the horizon for more than 100 days and travel at speeds greater than 25k.

Rolls-Royce Naval Electrics, Automation and Control general manager Benjamin Thorp said: “Rolls-Royce is seeing interest from major navies in autonomous, rather than remote controlled, ships.

“Such ships offer a way to deliver increased operational capability, reduce the risk to crew and cut both operating and building costs.

“Over the next ten years or so, Rolls-Royce expects to see the introduction of medium-sized unmanned platforms, particularly in leading navies as the concept of mixed manned and unmanned fleets develops.”

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The ship's initial design includes Rolls-Royce’s full electric propulsion system, which would require fewer auxiliary solutions such as lubrication and cooling systems, while providing enhanced reliability levels compared to mechanical variants.

"Rolls-Royce expects to see the introduction of medium-sized unmanned platforms, particularly in leading navies as the concept of mixed manned and unmanned fleets develops."

The system features two of the company’s MTU 4000 Series gensets, which are capable of supplying approximately 4MW of electrical power to a 1.5MW propulsion drive.

Small gas turbines can be used as an alternative to diesel engines in order to help enhance the system’s reliability and reduce onboard maintenance.

The vessel is expected to be equipped with permanent magnet azipull thrusters and bow-mounted tunnel thrusters for increased manoeuvrability.

Additionally, the ship is to be fitted with photovoltaic solar panels to generate power when in standby mode.

Image: Rolls-Royce’s new autonomous naval vessel concept. Photo: courtesy of Rolls-Royce plc.