UK Navy tests new robot boat ‘Otter Pro’ for future operations

August 12, 2021 (Last Updated August 12th, 2021 17:11)

The next stage of the trials will see the survey boat being tested in a much more complex environment.

UK Navy tests new robot boat ‘Otter Pro’ for future operations
The Royal Navy has trialled a new boat survey vessel. Credit: Royal Navy/ NavyX.

The British Royal Navy has tested a new robotic vessel, known as ‘Otter Pro’, at the Defence Diving School, on Horsea Island at Portsmouth naval base.

The remote-controlled vessel was trialled by the navy’s Project Hecla team for future underwater survey operations.

Using a wide range of sensors, the boat is designed to quickly collect data on the water and objects in and around it on the seabed.

During these tests, Otter Pro was able to gather sonar imagery of several wrecks.

The survey performed by the boat gave detailed evidence of decay and structural collapse on a motorboat, helicopter, and sunken day cruiser.

In the first hour, the boat surveyed an area the size of a football pitch.

The project Hecla team surveyed the 7,000m² Horsea Lake in 40 minutes and then generated a viable product within 60 minutes.

Royal Navy trials lead commander Graham Mimpriss said: “Although the Otter Pro is being operated to enable Project Hecla to refine future operating concepts of uncrewed surface vehicles in future military surveying application, it has begun to prove itself as being superior to existing portable systems.

“Using a rapid response context, this vehicle was mobilised within an hour of arrival, having been transported to the site in a van.”

The next stage of the trials will see the Otter Pro being tested in a more confined environment. The tests will focus on refining the boat’s near-real time data processing.

The Project Hecla team will also further test the survey boat’s Norbit multi-beam echo sounder and other sonar systems.