Two new-generation long-endurance unmanned surface vehicles are about to enter production in the UK with confirmed orders for both vehicles, AutoNaut and C-Enduro.

The robots have been developed by Hampshire companies ASV and MOST (AV) in collaboration with the National Oceanography Centre at Southampton.

Designs for the vehicles were originally chosen by a panel of scientific and technical experts prior to development in association with the NOC’s Marine Autonomous & Robotic Systems (MARS) team. They have since successfully undergone rigorous capability trials in Portsmouth Harbour and off the coast of Oban in Scotland.

The two prototypes have been designed and built as part of a government-backed Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) with the basic aim of developing ocean-going robotic vehicles capable of sustained marine research over long periods. Co-funding was provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

According to David Maclean, director of MOST (AV), a first order for a 3.5m AutoNaut has already been received from an organisation in the US. Meanwhile, the NOC itself plans to use both vehicles in a project off the UK in the autumn by way of demonstrating the ability of a network of surface, sub-surface and seabed autonomous systems to collect a wide variety of scientific data.

By David Goodfellow