An unmanned military boat was tested by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) near Tower Bridge this week, after being lowered into the water at Rotherhithe’s South Dock Marina.
The “Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed” (MAST) is based on the Bladerunner hull shape and is allowing the MoD to “test and evolve tactics for employing maritime autonomous systems”.
MAST is a unique UK designed and built craft capable of reaching high speeds, on which autonomy can be investigated.
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.
Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: “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.”