Royal Navy continues technology development following successful trials

From drones resupplying Royal Marines on the battlefield to crewless boats integrating with Royal Navy ships on deployment, 2020 was a year of firsts for technology, says the Royal Navy.

Numerous trials took place throughout the year in the Arctic Circle, the Mediterranean and around the UK.

In the three months UK flagship HMS Albion, destroyer HMS Dragon, RFA Lyme Bay, 40, 42 and 47 Commando were in the Mediterranean, some 40 different experiments and assessments were carried out, spread across nine real-time exercises.

Drones feeding back live video footage, quad-copters delivering supplies and all-terrain vehicles were used in the series of trials in Cyprus.

They were the latest in the Autonomous Advance Force (AAF) exercises the Royal Navy launched in 2019 which are looking to integrate autonomous and crewless tech into warships and commando units.

They started in Norway in March 2020 when the Mast13 crewless boat, now known as Madfox, successfully sailed into HMS Albion while being controlled by operators in the ship. It was the first time the boat’s artificial intelligence system to control all of this tech was integrated in a Royal Navy warship.

Fast-forward eight months and the next phase of AAF trials saw Malloy T-150 heavy lift drones drop supplies to 40 Commando – taking off from Albion and flying inland to resupply Royal Marines on the battlefield.

The same drone also underwent extensive trials in the UK, getting it ready to head to sea on a Royal Navy warship.

“2020 was a great year for the MarWorks team who have really pushed the boundaries of digitising the battlespace and supporting end-to-end information exploitation,” says Dave McInerney, MarWorks programme manager.

“These are key concepts if the Royal Navy is to gain and hold the information advantage. LRG(X) was a particular highlight, with validation of our concepts and experimentation by the warfighter on the ground.”

The pace of trials and experimentation with new kit is expected to continue this year with more technology being trialled at sea.

A crewless boat from BAE

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