Royal Navy Takes Delivery of Autonomous Minesweeper
The Royal Navy has taken delivery of an autonomous minesweeping boat that can trigger modern naval mines without endangering manned vessels or crew.
The Atlas Elektronik system - dubbed the ATLAS Remote Combined Influence Minesweeping System (ARCIMS) - uses a self-driving launch to tow three smaller boats, each carrying acoustic, magnetic and electrical devices that can trigger naval mines at a distance. The launch uses a Rolls-Royce / Lloyd's Register / Atlas collision avoidance system, MAXCMAS, to maximize compliance with COLREGS without requiring human intervention.
ARCIMS successfully completed its acceptance trials on April 26, and the Royal Navy's Maritime Autonomous Systems Trial Team (MASTT) has taken formal delivery. The boat has been named RNMB Hussar, and it will be taken to the British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre in Scotland for further trials.
The system is the result of a $17 million contract awarded to Atlas in 2015 for a single prototype, a control center packaged into one portable container, and a study to evaluate integrating ARCIMS' function into the operations of the UK's Hunt-class minesweeping vessels.
Unmanned minesweeping drones are a well-established tool. The German Navy's remotely-controlled Seehund system, a 100-ton launch with acoustic and magnetic signature simulators, has been in service since 1980 and was deployed in the first Persian Gulf War. The U.S. Navy has put many remotely-controlled surface craft into service, like the QST-35 target boat and the OWL II remotely-controlled surveillance boat, which saw patrol duty in the Persian Gulf in the 1990s. However, ARCIMS represents a technological step forward: it is self-driving, and does not require a human navigator. It joins the U.S. Navy's "ACTUV" prototype as one of the few autonomous surface vessels delivered to a naval force.