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The UK Navy is operating a robot fleet of seven submarine gliders and three surface wave gliders to collect environmental data in real time as part of its demonstrator missions run by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

NOC’s Professor Russell Wynn, chief scientist of the mission, told defenseworld.com: “This deployment will showcase the capabilities of marine robots to the Royal Navy, and other defence and industry partners”.

A two-week mission involving ten marine robots has got underway off the coast of northwest Scotland in preparation for the Royal Navy’s Unmanned Warrior exercise.

“The results will also inform the wider scientific and environmental community of the benefits of these new technologies as an alternative to manned vessels, which are relatively expensive to operate and have a larger environmental impact,” Wynn said.

As well as collecting basic information on ocean temperature, oxygen and near-surface weather conditions, the gliders will also be measuring ocean currents and water depth.

According to the NOC, some of the vehicles will be travelling over 150 km offshore of the Outer Hebrides, and venturing into waters up to a mile deep.

Most of the gliders will be overseen via satellite from an operations room at the NOC, but some project partners will be controlling their vehicles from as far away as the US and Australia. The goal of the mission is to provide the Royal Navy with as much real-time data as possible over the course of the exercise, which will bring together over 20 different organisations to work together on the project.

“Industry partners providing vehicles and piloting support include Liquid Robotics, Boeing, RS Aqua and Blue Ocean Monitoring,” said Rolly Rogers of the NOC, the mission’s operations manager. “The Royal Navy is deploying and recovering the submarine gliders, software experts such as Esri UK, Helyx and SeeByte will help us visualise incoming data, and Plymouth Marine Laboratory and UK Met Office will ensure we have the most up-to-date satellite images and weather forecasts to support mission planning.”

The Unmanned Warrior exercise is set to take place off the coast of Scotland and Wales sometime during October.