The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced a £75m investment to develop innovative technology for the Royal Navy, including robots and autonomous mine-hunters.
The funding will be used to develop two new autonomous mine-hunter vessels with sonars. These vessels will enable remote mine-hunting at higher range, speed and accuracy in the Gulf.
A portion of the funding will also be allocated to the creation of a new joint military and industry hi-tech accelerator, NavyX, focussed on autonomy and lethality.
The objective of the Royal Navy technology accelerator will be to streamline the process of acquisition of the latest technology and create a new facility to test, assess and purchase new equipment.
The proposed facility will see industry, military and academia working in collaboration.
UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Today’s announcement will not only allow the Royal Navy to rapidly harness dynamic, cutting-edge equipment at speed, but also ensure they can outpace adversaries both on the water and the sea floor.
“Technology is moving faster than ever, and with the defence landscape rapidly evolving, we must ensure our armed forces are continually pushing the boundaries at the forefront of this change.”
The deployment of autonomous mine-hunters will enhance the Royal Navy’s capability to combat existing and evolving underwater threats and offer more protection to sailors.
First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Philip Jones said: “From the invention of the steam catapult and aircraft carrier, to the first use of sonars and torpedoes, the Royal Navy has a strong pedigree in the development, testing, and introduction of new technologies that help us keep our country safe.
“Across the generations, our willingness to embrace innovation has kept us one step ahead of our adversaries, and to assure our continued success on operations into the future it is vital that the Royal Navy continues to be equipped with the latest cutting-edge capabilities we need to address the rapidly evolving challenges that pose a threat to our national interests around the globe.”
The funding was announced during Williamson’s visit to QinetiQ’s Portsdown Technology Park. He witnessed demonstrations of autonomous vehicles, vessels, and drones, including hoverbikes, wave gliders and Gravity’s ‘Ironman’ flying suit.
Last week, the UK MOD awarded £2.5m to a consortium led by Blue Bear Systems Research to develop drone swarm technology for use in battlefield operations.