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British Navy to create first European maritime operations and training centre for robotic vehicles

According to information published by the British Royal Navy on June 8, 2021, the British Royal Navy is set to be involved in Europe’s first maritime operations and training centre for robotic vehicles. Joined by Seabot XR and the UK National Oceanography Centre (NOC), the facility will future-proof training for civilian and military vessel operations.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Autonomous minehunting boat as part of Project Wilton. (Picture source LPhot Will Haigh)

The partners, all active members of the Solent Maritime Enterprise Zone, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to create the National Centre for Operational Excellence in Marine Robotics, based in Southampton.

The MoU brings together the expertise of the three key players in Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships operations and autonomous sub-surface operational training. Together, they will create the centre that will deliver new standards of training using the world-renowned facilities at the UK NOC and other satellite facilities.

The requirements for marine robotics training are very different to those which exist in the maritime training sector today. To address this gap, a curriculum is being created specifically for autonomous and remote vessel surface and sub-surface operations to ensure a workforce, like the Royal Navy's, has the necessary skills and knowledge to operate vessels.

The MoU will see a combined training and testing site where companies can try out their own autonomous and remote-controlled vessels as well as tap into pioneering in-person training designed for military and civil marine operations. Customers will have access to a remote operations centre and various surface and sub-surface vessels to experiment with different weather and tidal conditions, vessel features and operational practicalities.

The centre of excellence will be based at NOC’s two UK testing facilities in Southampton, England and Loch Ness, Scotland, and will be officially launched at the Marine Autonomy Technology Showcase exhibition, MATS Southampton, in November 2021.