The Royal Navy Motor Boat Apollo has successfully passed industry open water assurance trials in the first UK Military clearance of its kind.
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The Thales-built uncrewed surface vessel took part in the trials as part of the Anglo-French Maritime Mine Counter Measures program to assess autonomous minehunting capability for the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy in December 2022.
The craft was successfully operated by a team at a shore-based control station to complete a series of tasks, while retaining awareness of its course and position utilising line of sight communications systems.
Thales UK chief executive and chairman Alex Cresswell said the trials off Weymouth Bay were run by Royal Navy Maritime Autonomous System Trials Team and supported by Thales.
“As the first of their kind, these trials are a significant milestone in the path towards certification of autonomous maritime systems for operational use,” he said.
“They represent one of the first important steps in gaining trust in uncrewed vessels in a complex program. The trial is a critical remote operation stepping stone towards autonomous mine hunting.”
The development of uncrewed mine clearance platforms is expected to allow the Royal Navy to continue their important role of keeping shipping lanes open without putting sailors or crewed platforms at risk.
Each platform can be fitted with tracking software, sensors, radar, light detection and ranging sensors, optical and infra-red cameras. They will be capable of operating in national waters or being air-transported to hunt for mines in danger zones or secure sea lines of communications.
RNMB Apollo is one of the two pre-production uncrewed surface vessels delivered to the Royal Navy and Marine nationale (French Navy) in December 2021 as part of the joint UK-France Maritime Mine Counter Measures program.
Thales underwater systems managing director Gwendoline Blandin-Roger said Thales is actively working to deliver full operating capability to both the United Kingdom and France in 2024.
“We have a long tradition of supporting the Royal Navy and Marine nationale in mine warfare, surface ship, and underwater operations and we are very proud to be working with them to bring these game-changing autonomous systems into operational service,” she said.
Thales is currently presenting collaborative combat, satellite communication, command and reconnaissance systems at the 54th International Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget Parc des Expositions in France from 19 to 25 June. The event aims to bring together businesses in the global industry around the latest technological innovations.