Minehunter Apollo, demonstrated by defence firm Thales, sailed into Dartmouth this week.
The company has turned part of the Royal Marines’ old 539 Assault Squadron base at Turnchapel in Plymouth into a maritime technology centre for developing unmanned boats and submersibles.
Apollo, say the firm, is conducting trials off the Devon coast, involving trailing its minehunting sonar array – the bright yellow torpedo-esque device stored aft – through the Channel.
The trials team took a break from those tests to demonstrate Apollo to Officer Cadets (pictured below).
John Hunnibell, trials manager for Thales at Turnchapel, explained that Apollo was the the first of a kind of vessels “capable of detecting, classifying and disposing of mines and bombs at sea – without having a human operator anywhere within a minefield”.
Thales say that not only can Apollo be programmed to search for mines in a specific patch of water – and neutralise any explosive devices it finds in that stretch – but it is designed to avoid obstacles or other vessels operating in the same waters.
“It’s being trialled and tested right now on the doorstep of their college – emphasising to them the degree of development in maritime autonomy and the very real prospect of them operating this equipment in the course of their careers.”