A small unmanned vessel, apparently configured not to be detected, has appeared on the Scottish Island of Tiree.

The craft is a ‘Wave Glider’, produced by ‘Liquid Robotics’ which are part of Boeing. The only information I’ve been able to find on what the vessel might be doing in the area relates to the ‘Unmanned Warrior‘ exercise when Liquid Robotics and Boeing used a network of persistent USVs to detect, report and track a live submarine.

The firm have a list of customers but none are publicly still using it in the North Atlantic.

According to the firm, the vessel has the following capabilities:

Anti-Submarine Warfare

“Wave Gliders host payloads and tow sensors to provide undersea connectivity, addressing initial detection challenges and enabling tip and cue of aerial assets.”

Wave Gliders for anti-submarine warfare (ASW)

Surface Vessel Detection

“Wave Gliders are a low-cost, mobile platform for 24×7 persistent acoustic surveillance, so you can detect vessels entering or operating in a targeted area. During a mission to patrol the waters around the Pitcairn Islands, the Wave Glider successfully intercepted and collected data on three vessels whose AIS signatures were unavailable.”

Wave Gliders forsurface vessel detection

Intelligence Surveillance & Reconnaissance

Wave Gliders are low-observable, mobile platforms that enable over-the horizon surveillance with both surface and sub-surface payloads.

Wave Gliders for intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)

Communications Gateway

“Radio waves don’t travel well underwater. And underwater acoustics require a relay at the surface. Wave Gliders provide an essential link to connect seabed to space nearly anywhere in the ocean.”

Wave Gliders as communications gateway

Who does it belong to?

The Ministry of Defence have denied that the vessel belongs to them, the only other operator in the public domain is the U.S. Navy.

Cefas, another potential owner, have also reportedly denied it’s theirs.

What is unusual about this vessel?

David Hambling, a Defence and Aerospace reporter at Forbes, said:

“There are a couple of unusual features about this particular Wave Glider which suggest a military rather than scientific mission. One is that is grey rather than the usual bright yellow, with no pennant to make it easier to see. There are no navigation lights, which are compulsory for any vessel sailing at night under UK law, or a radar reflector.

Without these aids, the glider, which lies flat on the water, would be extremely difficult to spot. This would make it a navigation hazard, though in almost any collision the small unmanned craft would probably come off worse. This may explain why one of the antennas is broken and how it ended washed up on a beach. The question though is why such a vessel would be sailing covertly in ‘stealth mode’.”


HM Coastguard said when the vessel was found:

“The team were called today to reports of an object in the water, once on scene we secured the item. We are currently trying to find out some more information as to the objects origin and owner. If anyone has any information please get in touch. Remember if you see something out of place on the coast please dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”

This unmanned surface vessel isn’t British but it is, apparently, being operated in British waters.

4.2 9 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

dan (@guest_524125)
7 months ago

Well at least the Chicoms didn’t find it. haha

Herodotus (@guest_524225)
6 months ago
Reply to  dan

Very surprising, given their naval patrols and access to the British coastline!

Alex (@guest_524131)
7 months ago

Not necessarily operated in British waters. The North Atlantic current flows past Scotland and Tiree and therefore it could have floated across from the US.

Alan Mcshane
Alan Mcshane (@guest_524132)
7 months ago

What’s the salvage laws ?

Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub (@guest_524140)
7 months ago

The MOD saying it isn’t theirs is perhaps disingenuous as they typically rent items like this from the manufacturer for the duration of trials.

Jack (@guest_524149)
7 months ago

Or maybe the Americans were being sneaky and things went wrong. If so, i wonder what conversations are being had behind closed doors.

ChariotRider (@guest_524224)
6 months ago

True, but they often include considerable support including trained operators from the contractor, especially if is was the payload that was the focus of the trials. The masts on the vessel could well be part of the control / navigation system rather than mission payload. So it is entirely possible that the vessel was ‘handed’ back to the contractor before it was lost! Whatever, the reason for the ‘mystery’ someone somewhere is going to be very embarressed when they check their inventory. Of course, it could have been lost over the side of a transport vessel given the weather we… Read more »

Jonathan (@guest_524152)
7 months ago

I wonder how much the local land own will get for it on eBay.

David (@guest_524156)
7 months ago

Finders keepers

Steve (@guest_524211)
6 months ago
Reply to  David

If no one is going to claim owning it, then i would guess yes and it will on eBay before long.

Harry Bulpit
Harry Bulpit (@guest_524166)
7 months ago

That’s pretty cool. May make for good picket ships in time of war. Save any more ships from facing the fate of HMS Sheffield.

OOA (@guest_524172)
7 months ago

“Please mister, can we have our ball back”.

Glen Towler
Glen Towler (@guest_524203)
6 months ago

I bet there is a few embarrassed people in the US navy which is my guess to the owner. Some very interesting tech

expat (@guest_524283)
6 months ago

We always assume its UK or the US. Could belong to Norway or another North Sea nation.

Mr Grahame Tearle
Mr Grahame Tearle (@guest_524293)
6 months ago
Reply to  expat

Given the number of U.S. submarines in the area, a good gues would be the worries over Russian interference with the undersea cables. Its very interesting that two unknown signatures were found during the last exercises in the cable area, Russia doctrine is to have two submarines circling single or more submerged vehicles doing work ?. On the seabed. The weather may have let one get hit, disabling it and getting lost. On ebay very rich person will turn up and pay any price to either keep it, or take it away. If you can keep hold of it for… Read more »

DaveNBC (@guest_524304)
6 months ago

Ask in Bruaichladdich about the ‘Yellow Submarine”. Hauled up in nets, the Navy initially denied it was theirs then came to pick it up. There’s a bit more to it than that but they named a whisky after it.?

Paul (@guest_524365)
6 months ago

Got to be connected to the NATO training exercise of Scotland at moment it’s too much of a coincidence that something like that is prowling about and there’s an exercise in progress.

Alan Jenkins
Alan Jenkins (@guest_524519)
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Agreed, Paul. Probably USN

James D
James D (@guest_524469)
6 months ago

Check for a Boeing serial number. Secure lithium batteries.

whlgrubber (@guest_524555)
6 months ago

Looks like solar panelling across the deck. i would love to know what it was towing, (if thats what it was doing). could be a towed array or a feed to a deployed sonobuoy. either way it makes for an intriguing story. Aerials could be for remote control and data uplink.
Any reason it could be russian??

spyintheskyuk (@guest_524693)
6 months ago
Reply to  whlgrubber

I did read speculation last week that it could have been acquired and operated by Russia. No idea if there was any evidence behind that claim, a form of misinformation or pure speculation on the part of whoever made it.

andy (@guest_524720)
6 months ago

it’s either been used as part of the exercise in some quite way,or it’s been monitoring the exercise to see how things are used,but it is certainly no coincidence of it being there at the same time as a major exercise especially when 5th gen jets are in use..