Royal Navy trials new robot survey boat

The new robot boat Otter Pro, which can be used to quickly survey uncharted waters and gather data, has begun trials with the Royal Navy.

Royal Navy

The vessel has been put through its paces at the Defence Diving School, on Horsea Island, Portsmouth, by the navy’s Project Hecla team.

The team was testing the use of the remote-controlled vessel for conducting underwater survey operations where, with a range of sensors, it could gather data on the water around it and objects on the seabed.

In the tests at Horsea Lake, the Otter Pro was able to collect sonar imagery of a number of wrecks – detailing evidence of decay and structural collapse on a sunken day cruiser, motor boat and helicopter. Its sensors also picked up swim lines and seabed erosion caused by divers.

“This first trial has begun to demonstrate positive benefits of uncrewed surface vehicles for surveying and also highlighted changes the Royal Navy would need to make to training, personnel employment and logistics for enable full exploitation of offboard technologies,” Graham Mimpriss, Royal Navy lead for the trials, said.

The next stage of the trials will see the Otter Pro, from RS Aqua Ltd, tested in a more complex environment and its near-real time data processing will be refined. The Project Hecla team will also further examine the Otter’s Norbit multi-beam echo sounder and different sonar systems.

Recently, the Royal Navy also tested software to map the seabed close to shore.

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