The Royal Canadian Navy is seeking options for unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), Canada’s defence minister Peter Gordon MacKay said.

MacKay told the Canadian Press that although the technology was in its infancy stages when compared with aerial drones, the USVs could play a vital role in assisting the Canadian Navy.

"Unmanned vessels, like unmanned aerial vehicles, give us reach and capability without the same risk," he said. "It allows you to keep harm at a distance. So there’s a lot of interest. But it’s new technology."

MacKay also recently announced a $3m order to Rolls-Royce as a part of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s broader research and development initiative to assist in USV support research.

"Unmanned vessels give us reach and capability without the same risk. It allows you to keep harm at a distance."

"The project will develop technology for automatically conducting refuelling and launch-recovery missions at sea for unmanned surface vehicles," the agency stated.

According to the Canadian Navy commander vice-admiral Paul Maddison, deployment plans of the USVs into the future fleet are already being considered and might take place should the current frigates in the Canadian navy replaced late in the next decade.

The Canadian Navy is currently testing remote technology with Scan Eagles unmanned aerial vehicles from its naval frigates.

The remote-control drones are also the weapon of choice for the Obama administration in its recent targeted killings of al-Qaeda terrorists.