DSEI 2019: Trials involved HMS ARGYLL with autonomous PAC24 RIB

An autonomous boat worked alongside a Royal Navy warship, transmitting imagery from the vessel to the ship for the first time during a series of demonstrations at DSEI 2019, London.

DSEI 2019 Trials involving HMS ARGYLL with autonomous PAC24 RIB 925 001 The unmanned PAC24 RIB at DSEI 2019 (Picture source: Royal Navy)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Royal Navy, along with industry partners from BAE Systems, L3Harris and Science Technology Laboratory (Dstl), have conducted a series of trials involving an autonomous boat and Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll.

The first demonstration tested the capability of BAE Systems’ Pacific 24 (PAC24) rigid inflatable boat (RIB) to integrate with a vessel. During this demonstration, PAC24 transmitted imagery to the ship for the first time. The navy stated that the successful integration of the RIB with an active vessel indicates its ability for future missions.

The second demonstration showed that the PAC24 can be used to support anti-piracy operations, border control and force protection. It also showcased the ability of the autonomous version of a PAC24 boat to drive sustainability and effectiveness.

The PAC24 RIBs are partly funded by the Royal Navy’s Autonomous Hardware Accelerator NavyX used with aircraft carriers and offshore patrol vessels. The 7.8m-long RIB can be operated in an autonomous mode or controlled remotely.

NavyX programme director commander Sean Trevethan said: “This is much more than an autonomous surface vessel demonstration for the Royal Navy. What we are doing is the first step of exploiting system architecture in a complex warship to integrate an unmanned system into the ship.

“This ensures the system and its payload fully contribute to the warfighting capability of the ship.

“Ultimately this will change the way we fight, through integrated command and control, and lead to the development of new tactics, techniques and procedures.”

The boat used in the trials at the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) 2019 event was a modified version designed for optional unmanned operations.