The funding, more than $15 million, will be provided through the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory and will be in partnership with a number of associations and industry bodies.
"The opportunities presented by Maritime Autonomous Systems are very exciting," said Philip Smith, Affordable Maritime Presence Program manager at DSTL. "However if we are to fully exploit these opportunities we need to invest in key areas such as supervised autonomy and deployment and recovery in order meet future requirements and position the UK as a world leader in next generation Maritime Mission Systems.
"The funding we are making available through these four initiatives is a significant step towards achieving this."
The four initiatives are the Maritime Autonomous Systems Technology program; Autonomous Systems Underpinning Research; Adaptive Autonomous Ocean Sampling Networks; and Towards Excellence in Maritime Autonomous Systems.
The Autonomy in Maritime Unmanned Vehicles initiative, sponsored by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, is to change the way activities such as mine clearance and surveillance are conducted. The Autonomous Systems Underpinning Research project addresses unmanned system enablers, while the Autonomous Ocean Sampling Networks is sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council and DSTL for "tracking of dynamic maritime features with unmanned vehicles.