Hampshire & Isle of Wight

'Drone' boats created for Navy aircraft carriers by BAE Systems and ASV

A 'drone' boat being developed for the Royal Navy Image copyright PA
Image caption The vessel using the new technology was demonstrated for the first time near Portsmouth Naval Base

A "drone" boat capable of 12-hour missions is being developed for the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers.

The technology, being created in Portsmouth by BAE Systems and ASV, is being designed for use by the Queen Elizabeth Class ships.

When installed in the Navy's rigid inflatable boats (RIBs), they will be capable of unmanned operations up to 25 miles (40km) from their parent vessel.

The Royal Navy has not yet decided whether to use the new technology.

The adapted boats, which can travel in excess of 38 knots (44mph), are intended to carry out high-risk missions without putting sailors in danger.

'Protecting ships'

They can also be remote controlled from land or ship, or piloted normally.

Les Gregory, product and training services director at BAE Systems, said the boats were capable of performing multiple roles.

Dan Hook, managing director for Fareham-based ASV, which develops unmanned marine systems, said the technology would allow the boat to complete "complex missions and navigate through waters avoiding collisions".

He said: "This gives it the flexibility and sophistication to operate in a number of different tactical roles, whether it's patrolling areas of interest, providing surveillance and reconnaissance ahead of manned missions, or protecting larger ships in the fleet."

The technology is designed as a retrofit to the Pacific 24 RIB, which is already deployed across Type 23 Frigates and Type 45 Destroyers, and will go on the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers once they enter service.

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