The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), through its Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), has allocated £9m to support the development of maritime autonomous systems.
To be carried out in collaboration with several associations and industry bodies, the funding is being allocated through four initiatives, with each of them dealing with different maritime autonomy areas.
Autonomy in maritime unmanned vehicles is claimed to offer the potential to modify the way several activities are being executed at sea, including the clearance of sea mines and persistent wide-area surveillance.
Dstl Affordable Maritime Presence programme manager Philip Smith said: "The opportunities presented by maritime autonomous systems are very exciting.
"However if we are to fully exploit these opportunities we need to invest in key areas such as supervised autonomy and deployment and recovery, in order to meet future requirements and position the UK as a world leader in next generation maritime mission Systems.
"The funding we are making available through these four initiatives is a significant step towards achieving this."
The MoD will conduct the maritime autonomous systems technology competition, which is funded by Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, to address underwater unmanned vehicles and unmanned surface vehicles needs for defence applications.
The competition will close in April 2015 and is mainly directed at small and medium-sized enterprises in the Solent, which can develop or support jobs in the local defence supply chain.
Of the overall funding, £1m is being allocated for the project, in addition to awards for projects of up to £75,000 in value.
Sponsored by Natural Environment Research Council and DSTL, the adaptive autonomous ocean sampling networks competition is a small business research initiative to address the tracking dynamic maritime features with unmanned vehicles.
The last competition, which is funded by the UK's innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, and the Dstl, deals with maritime unmanned vehicles for defence and civil applications.
Image: Graphical representation of Maritime Autonomous Systems. Photo: courtesy of UK Gov.