Royal Navy begun trails on a new robot boat called Otter Pro, which can be used to survey uncharted waters and gather data as required.
The Otter Pro has been put through its paces at the Defence Diving School, on Horsea Island, Portsmouth, by the navy’s Project Hecla team.
The remote-controlled vessel can use for underwater survey operations in deep waters and difficult waterways where humans can’t reach. The boat is equipped with a range of sensors and it can gather data on the water around it and objects on the seabed.
In its maiden test drive at Horsea Lake, the Otter Pro was able to collect sonar imagery of many wrecks – detailing evidence of decay and structural collapse on a sunken day cruiser, motorboat and helicopter. It is also picked up data on swim lines and seabed erosion caused by divers.
During its first test drive in the water, the vessel, controlled by trained RN personnel, proved its ability to deploy and gather survey information quickly and effectively.
Commander Graham Mimpriss, Royal Navy lead for the trials, said: “Although the Otter Pro is being operated to enable Project Hecla to refine future operating concepts of uncrewed surface vehicles in future military surveying application, it has begun to prove itself as being superior to existing portable systems.
“The team on its first outing surveyed Horsea Lake (7,000 square meters) in 40 minutes and then generated a viable product within an hour.
This was achieved with a team of three without the need for a boat or jetty facilities for launching or recovery. During surveying, two of the team acted as a pilot and looked out for the vehicle and the third was processing the data in near real-time.
The next trial stage the Otter Pro will be tested in a more complex environment and its near-real-time data processing will be refined. The Project Hecla team will also further examine the Otter’s Norbit multi-beam echo sounder and different sonar systems.