Royal Navy sailors take control of new 'robo boat' for the first time in Portsmouth

ROYAL Navy sailors have piloted a new ‘robo stealth boat’ in Portsmouth remotely for the first time – and used it to spy on shipping in the Solent.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 12:36 pm

Working from a tent on Browndown Beach, in Gosport, two sailors managed to pilot the Madfox autonomous boat around the Solent, in a technological leap forward for the Senior Service.

The futuristic vessel – which looks like something from a James Bond movie – was used to monitor everything from passenger vessels to cargo ships travelling through the Solent.

Equipped with sophisticated sensors and cameras, the boat was able to zoom in on ships from distance, observing passengers and crew on the decks of various vessels.

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The Madfox autonomous boat pictured leaving Portsmouth Harbour. Photo: Royal Navy

Previous test runs have seen the hi-tech drone boat being controlled by someone on board.

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However, this time sailors remained on board purely as a safety precaution, with all the vessel’s operations being controlled from a laptop and tablet on land.

Commander Antony Crabb, in charge of NavyX – the specialist team tasked with harnessing the latest tech for use by the fleet – said: ‘It might seem like remote-controlled boats on a park lake, however, this is a significant milestone as navy personnel gain confidence in operating at speed and dislocated from the vessel.

Madfox's camera zooms in on a passenger ferry during its test run to monitor shipping in the Solent. Photo: Royal Navy

‘It’s not what we are used to after years standing watch on board ships of the current Fleet. Lessons from these recent serials will be used to build ever more complex serials ahead of integration into Operational Experimentation activity where the project will add tactical value, helping to shape the blended fleet of tomorrow.’

The investment in Madfox comes as the Royal Navy and Royal Marines look to expand their use of crewless and autonomous equipment.

It is hoped the vessel, and other systems like it, could deploy with Royal Navy ships in future operations, carrying out tasks from force protection to surveillance.

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Two sailors pictured controlled the boat from a tent on Browndown Beach in Gosport. Photo: Royal Navy

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