The Royal Navy is conducting a ‘robot wars’ exercise

It's the future of autonomy at sea

The Royal Navy is currently hosting a training exercise it’s dubbing ‘robot wars’ off the western coasts of Scotland and Wales.

The exercise, officially called Unmanned Warrior (which is an equally cool name), is the first of its kind for the Royal Navy and features more than 50 vehicles, sensors and systems from more than 40 manufacturers of military technology.

Royal Navy Commander Peter Pipkin says the “the technologies demonstrated in Unmanned Warrior have the potential to fundamentally change the future of Royal Navy operations just as the advent of steam propulsion or submarines did." 

Despite the focus on automation he also offers assurance that the intention is not to "take people out of the loop", but rather to "enhance" what they do and extend our "reach and efficiency using intelligent robotics at sea.” 

All's fair in love and Robot Wars

Military ranges and sites in Benbecula, Kyle of Lochalsh and off Applecross are being used for the robot wars, which will see autonomous military technology being tested not only on the surface of the sea, but underwater and in the air, too, until October 20. 

BAE Systems, whose Pacific Class 950 Unmanned Rigid Inflatable Boat is taking part in the exercise, has called the event the world's first large-scale demonstration of “innovative maritime robotic systems.”

According to the Royal Navy, Unmanned Warrior has already seen nine autonomous systems being operated at the same time, “responding to each other, flying, swimming and diving together, but at different tasks, looking for different things”.

It’s hoped that demonstrating the abilities of Maritime Autonomous Systems in the areas of surveillance, intelligence-gathering and mine countermeasures will help to support the generation of ideas that will benefit British defenses as well as businesses.