The Royal Navy is set to carry out trials of underwater gliders capable of rapidly sending vital information aiding submarine hunting operations in the North Atlantic.
To be conducted as part of Project Hecla, one of the gliders is currently off the North West coast of the Outer Hebrides.
During a five-month deployment, an unmanned Slocum Glider is being tested to the limit as it stores information about the seas west of Scotland.
Slocum will conduct the tests using its array of innovative sensors and can send information pertaining to near real-time, temperature, depth, salinity, currents, oxygen levels, and turbulence.
The efficiency of the sonar and sensors used by the Type 23 frigates, Merlin and Wildcat helicopters and the Royal Air Force’s P-8 Poseidon is impacted by these parameters during submarine hunting operations.
The gliders can relay information in hours, whereas the conventional collection of data requires months.
The deployment of gliders is aimed at providing a constant scenario of the underwater battlespace in high-threat areas.
This will help personnel take informed operational decisions. The availability of real-time data will allow better detection of underwater surface threats.
Royal Navy Captain Pat Mowatt said: “Salinity, sound velocity and temperature have all changed.
“We need to know these accurately as we strive to understand more and more about the undersea environment (battlespace) and how this effects the performance of ship and submarine sensors so we can achieve an operational advantage.”
The gliders will provide up-to-date information on parameters to trained officers. The settings and range of the sonars will be adjusted according to the information received.
They can dive down to 1,000m and can be deployed at sea for months together, constantly sending data.
The Slocum, due to stay out for four weeks, was extended to up to five months. This tests the glider to its limits on a long duration mission.
Data received is currently integrated into ocean forecast models by the Met Office. It is available for use by the navy at the Joint Operational Meteorology and Oceanography Centre at Northwood.
The National Oceanographic Centre, British Oceanographic Data Centre, and the Scottish Association of Marine Science are supporting the trials.
The latest tests look at methods to reduce the power consumption of on-board sensors, extending their battery life.
The project will also test autonomous vehicles that will aid data collection and exploitation missions alongside NavyX.
Project Hecla involves safe navigation for all ships using autonomous vehicles.
The results obtained from trials of REMUS autonomous underwater vehicles will be used to produce Admiralty Charts for maritime navigation systems.