The growing scale of Unmanned Warrior is a clear demonstration of the Royal Navy’s ambition to lead and win through technological innovation. Unmanned maritime systems will change how we operate, but they’re just the start.

Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff

Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: “The growing scale of Unmanned Warrior is a clear demonstration of the Royal Navy’s ambition to lead and win through technological innovation.

"Unmanned maritime systems will change how we operate, but they’re just the start.  Our pursuit of new technologies and ideas – from big data to 3D-printing – will ensure we remain one of the most capable and successful navies in the world.”

MAST is a unique UK designed and built craft capable of reaching high speeds on which high speed autonomy can be investigated. Various levels of autonomy include basic remote control up to autonomous navigation.

The craft is designed to operate autonomously in an unmanned mode, sensing other vessels in the immediate vicinity and avoiding them in a safe manner. The avoidance algorithms are designed to comply with internationally mandated collision regulations. When operating on a busy waterway (such as the Thames), the craft is operated with a coxswain on board ready to take control.

It does not carry weapons, but is designed to explore autonomous capabilities and support non-lethal surveillance and reconnaissance roles.

The work is funded through Dstl (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory), who conduct research on behalf of the Royal Navy (and the other UK armed forces).  The work is being conducted by civilian manufacturers ASV Ltd & Roke Manor Research, with support from Cambridge Pixels, Seebyte and Chess Dynamics.

Fleet Robotics Officer Commander Peter Pipkin said: “This is a chance to take a great leap forward in Maritime Systems – not to take people out of the loop but to enhance everything they do, to extend our reach, our look, our timescales, our efficiency using intelligent and manageable robotics at sea.”  

Vince Dobbin, Sales and Marketing Director, ASV Global said: “ASV Global has been working in the maritime autonomy industry for many years. We have a long-standing partnership with Dstl, part of which includes working on the Bladerunner vessel.

"Our role in this programme has involved developing the autonomous capabilities of this fast vessel. This capability will be demonstrated at Unmanned Warrior in October showcasing the UK’s position at the forefront of delivering this revolutionary technology."