Royal Navy Tests Integrated Autonomous Control for Unmanned Assets

Image courtesy Royal Navy

Published Mar 6, 2020 1:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Navy recently put a full range of remotely-operated devices under autonomous control for an operational-setting test in trials off the coast of Norway.  The exercise put the unmanned boat Mast 13, a heavy lift drone from Malloy, the remotely-piloted air system Puma and the Remus unmanned sub-surface drone through their paces in rough Arctic conditions. 

The Royal Marines small boat unit 47 Commando has been in Norway alongside the amphib HMS Albion, the Royal Navy’s autonomous accelerator NavyX and the Office for the Chief Technology Officer to see how the equipment could work during operations. An artificial intelligence system to control all of this equipment was integrated on board Albion, with industry partners on hand to implement and oversee the system trials.

“We wanted to operationalize the technology, both in an operational environment and as part of a NATO deployment," said Colonel Chris Haw, commanding officer of 47 Commando. “This exercise also enabled us to also integrate technology as far as possible into a Royal Navy warship. Integration of autonomy equipment is a key strand in the development of Future Commando Force . . . The future vision is of this type of system being used to control multiple assets in different domains."

In the long term, the objective is to see commandos and sailors running the AI control system and operating the equipment during live operations.

“In November, after the second in the series of the trials, we were challenged to make this work in Norway in an operational environment and, in a relatively short amount of time we have made that happen," Col Haw said. “This series of trials has been ground-breaking. It is at the leading edge of technology and integrating multiple systems in the uniquely challenging physical environment that Norway presents, is a significant step forward."