The Navy sub commanded by artificial intelligence
On 20 April, the Royal Navy’s latest nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarine, HMS Anson, emerged from a vast construction hall at Barrow-in-Furness, travelled down a slipway and entered the water. All 7,400 tonnes of it.
Around 260 miles away in Plymouth, another submarine made its debut that same day. A minnow compared to HMS Anson, this secretive nine-tonne craft may have greater implications for the future of the navy than the £1.3bn nuclear boat.
MSubs of Plymouth, a specialist in autonomous underwater vehicles, won a £2.5m Ministry of Defence contract to build and test an Extra-Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (XLUUV) that should be able to operate up to 3,000 miles from home for three months.
The big innovation here is the autonomy. The submarine’s movements and actions will be governed entirely by Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Ollie Thompson is a recent graduate who is studying for a master’s degree in robotics at Plymouth University. He also works for MarineAI, the MSubs arm that is fitting out the XLUUV’s brain.
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