British Royal Marines have used autonomous vehicles for the first time during tactical action as part of Exercise Commando Warrior.

Alpha Company of 40 Commando participated in the exercise that was carried out at Tregantle Beach in Cornwall. 1 Assault Group Royal Marines (1AGRM) also took part in the exercise.

The drill was designed to link unmanned systems to provide commanders with relevant information that would aid tactical decision-making.

During the exercise, an unmanned boat, fitted with cameras and sensors, supported the marines while they were advancing towards the beach. The boat cruised along the coastline in search of potential enemy forces both on land and at sea.

In addition, a small unmanned air system scanned the area for any signs of danger. A further two unmanned ground vehicles were present to provide overwatch and fire support if necessary.

Moreover, the information gathered during the drill was sent to a separate command and control facility at the 3 Commando Brigade headquarters.

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“It is about reinventing the force with new technology that’s available.”

With able assistance from the autonomous vehicles, the Royal Marines performed a series of tasks. The activities included raiding the beach, climbing the cliffs, taking out hostile forces patrolling and abseiling back to the shore.

It is part of the Autonomous Advance Force and is said to be the first step on how autonomy can be leveraged to yield benefits to Royal Marines and support the UK’s future commando force.

UK Royal Marine corporal Scott Shaw said: “This is very early steps in the capacity of the Future Commando Force and reinventing ourselves back to the original definition of what Commandos are.

“It is about reinventing the force with new technology that’s available.”

Teams responsible for the unmanned vehicles analysed how the equipment performed in a live action situation. The autonomous vehicles technology was designed and produced by QinetiQ.

A handheld tablet was made available to the marines on the ground to receive information so that they can make tactical decisions.