Autonomous Minesweeper Set for "Live" Operations

Image courtesy Royal Navy

Published Jan 14, 2020 5:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

The unmanned minesweeping vessel dubbed ARCIMS has been turned over for "live" military service with the Royal Navy, the service's R&D arm announced Monday. 

ARCIMS is an autonomous minesweeping boat developed by Atlas Elektronik, and it is designed to trigger modern naval mines without endangering manned vessels or crew. The self-driving launch can tow three smaller boats, each carrying acoustic, magnetic and electrical devices that can trigger naval mines at a distance. The launch uses a Rolls-Royce / Lloyd's Register / Atlas collision avoidance system, MAXCMAS, to maximize compliance with COLREGS without requiring human intervention. 

ARCIMS successfully completed its acceptance trials in April 2018, and the Royal Navy's Maritime Autonomous Systems Trial Team (MASTT) took formal delivery. The system - along with a range of high-tech submersibles - will now be turned over to a team of specialists at HMNB Clyde for "frontline," "live operations" service beginning in March. 

Initial operations are now being carried out by Project Wilton, the name for the Royal Navy’s unmanned mine hunting and survey effort. Wilton now has three boats – two remotely-controlled and one manned – as well as multiple underwater vehicles.

“With equipment and personnel now operating on the Clyde, the transition to widespread use of autonomous systems in mine counter measures (MCM) is becoming a reality and places the Royal Navy MCM community at the cutting edge," said Commodore Mike Knott, assistant chief of staff for maritime capability. 

While unmanned minesweeping tools have been in use for many decades, ARCIMS represents a technological step forward: it is self-driving, and does not require a human navigator. It joins the U.S. Navy's "ACTUV" prototype as one of the few autonomous surface vessels delivered to a naval force.