30/05/2005

‘Robots’ to be used to track sea mines

A fleet of high-tech unmanned underwater ‘robots’ are to be used by the Royal Navy in order to help track down deadly sea mines.

It will be the first time the Royal Navy has had an unmanned underwater vehicle capable of detecting shallow water mines. The job was traditionally carried out by naval divers.

The Remote Environmental Monitoring Units (REMUS) are battery-powered vehicles, which will scan the seabed, in depths of up to 100m deep, in order to ensure that there are no underwater mines, which could destroy ships and landing crafts. The vehicles, which are 1.6 m long and torpedo-shaped, use advanced detectors to pin-point the location of mines, before returning to their naval handlers for the raw data to be collected and evaluated.

However, the REMUS robots cannot clear the mines they discover – that task will still need to be conducted by trained naval divers.

Ten of these vehicles will be purchased by the Defence Procurement Agency under a £2.75 million programme and they will enter service early next year.

Sea mines are a deadly threat to naval forces, because they are relatively cheap and easy to plant and are often difficult to detect.

Commenting on the REMUS robots, Defence Procurement Minister Lord Drayson said: “REMUS will give the Royal Navy the ability to undertake rapid mine reconnaissance in very shallow water – cold and dangerous work in an area, which up until now, could only be done by divers.”

Lord Drayson said that the REMUS robots would help reduce the risk to divers during mine detection operations, as well as help the Royal Navy to undertake other tasks, including supporting search and salavage operations to help protect British ports and harbours from potential terrorist attacks.

The REMUS vehicles, manufactured by Hydroid Inc, are expected to stay in service until 2011, and are part of an ongoing initiative by the Ministry of Defence to introduce unmanned equipment to undertake hazardous tasks.

(KMcA/SP)

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