Royal Navy tests robotic unmanned boat to explore uncharted waters

The UK's Royal Navy has detailed work with a robotic unmanned boat called Otter Pro, one recently tested as a remote-controlled option for surveying uncharted waters. The testing was conducted by the Royal Navy's Project Hecla team at the Defense Diving School. Thanks an array of sensors, Otter Pro is able to gather information about objects located on the seabed, as well as the waters around the remote-controlled boat.

The testing took place at Horsea Lake on Horsea Island, according to the Royal Navy, which said that its Project Hecla team identified a variety of underwater wrecks beneath the water using Otter Pro and its sensors. The objects include a sunken helicopter, day cruiser, and motorboat.

In addition to observing the structural collapse and decay on these objects, the sensors also detected seabed erosion and swim lines from divers. The Royal Navy's project lead Commander Graham Mimpriss said the tests demonstrated Otter Pro as "superior to existing portable systems."

The Royal Navy anticipates using Otter Pro as an unmanned, remote-controlled way to survey waters as part of potential future military efforts. The vessel is described as capable of rapidly and effectively acquiring information, making it useful in a "rapid response context," according to the Royal Navy.

Otter Pro was transported to the testing site in a van; it took less than an hour to get the boat on the waters for surveying. Only three people were required to operate the boat, including someone to process the data and another person who served as a lookout. The Royal Navy plans to test Otter Pro in more complex environments in the future.