BAE Systems has successfully completed a series of trials on the autonomous Pacific 950 Rigid Inflatable Boat (P950 RIB) demonstrator.
According to the manufacturer, the autonomous P950 RIB demonstrator has been used to develop and prove technologies which have the potential to make naval missions faster, easier and safer. Developed in cooperation with L3Harris and MSI Defence Systems, the P950 is equipped with automated navigational decision-making technologies. The technology has been designed to be retrofitted to existing RIBs, such as BAE Systems’ Pacific 24, which is currently in service with the Royal Navy across its surface fleet.
BAE Systems states, that the vessel can operate for up to 10 days at ‘patrol speed’ or 300 nautical miles (555 km) in pursuit mode, reaching speeds of up to 45 kt, whilst either being remote controlled or on a semi-autonomous mission. The platform could be used in anti-piracy, border control, persistent intelligence gathering, maritime security and force protection operations.
This technology represents a huge step forward in the interaction between human and machine, combining sophisticated autonomous technology with human capabilities to overcome many of the challenges faced in difficult conditions at sea. The boat keeps sailors out of harm’s way whilst allowing them to respond to the increasingly varied, often unpredictable scenarios they face every day, and aids faster decision making in complex and ambiguous situations, said Mike Woods, Chief Technologist for BAE Systems’ Maritime Services business.
First introduced on an experimental basis in 2015 and trialled as part of the Royal Navy’s Unmanned Warrior exercise in 2016, the work now completed, in collaboration with the UK Ministry of Defence, has evolved the technology on the P950 demonstrator to an advanced state of readiness. Further work will be conducted by BAE Systems in coming months to prove the technology can be integrated with existing naval ship combat management systems. The RIB will also undertake further trials, including participation in NATO Exercise REPMUS, to be held in Portugal later this year.
For the past four years we have been working in collaboration to develop this ‘first of its kind’ technology. We are proud to have matured autonomous maritime technology significantly, positioning the UK as a forward thinker in this unique space and providing a crucial advantage where it counts, Woods added.