Rolls-Royce plans fully autonomous long-range naval vessel

By Stephen Carlson  |  Sept. 12, 2017 at 12:03 PM
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Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Rolls-Royce has announced plans to develop an autonomous naval vessel with a range of more than 4,000 miles.

The planned 197-foot vessel would be able to operate beyond line-of-sight of manned forces for more than three months, displace 700 tons and have a top speed of more than 25 mph, Rolls-Royce said in a news release.

The ship would be programmed for single-role missions -- including patrols, surveillance, mine detection and screening for other ships.

"Rolls-Royce is seeing interest from major navies in autonomous, rather than remote controlled, ships. Such ships offer a way to deliver increased operational capability, reduce the risk to crew and cut both operating and build costs," Benjamin Thorp, general manager of Rolls-Royce Naval Electrics, Automation and Control, said in a statement.

"Over the next 10 years or so, Rolls-Royce expects to see the introduction of medium sized unmanned platforms, particularly in leading navies, as the concept of mixed manned and unmanned fleets develops. With our experience and capabilities we expect to lead the field."

The ship is expected to have a fully electric propulsion system powered by two diesel or gas turbine plants providing 4 megawatts of electricity. Three thousand megawatts of battery storage would provide extended range for the ship and be supplemented by solar panels.

A limited form of artificial intelligence called the Intelligent Awareness System -- already developed by Rolls-Royce for use on commercial ships -- would man the naval vessels. Rolls-Royce believes it is the first system of its kind in the world.

Rolls-Royce plans to market its autonomous ship to advanced navies around the world.

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