The Royal Navy is to get 10 unmanned robots to detect underwater sea mines.
The torpedo-shaped REMUS (Remote Environmental Monitoring Units) use sophisticated on-board sensors to pin-point mines before relaying the data back to their controller.
The devices, which are manufactured by US company Hydroid, were used by the US military to carry out surveillance of ports and harbours during the war in Iraq.
The robot minesweepers will operate in water 30–100m deep, where it is difficult and laborious for divers to search for mines due to unpredictable tidal flows and accumulated flotsam and jetsam.
Operating at a speed of 3–5 knots, the 160cmlong REMUS scans the ocean bed, its sensors searching for mines up to six times more quickly than human divers.
They scan in a pre-set search pattern and relay the data back to a manned controller.
The unit can also be adapted to fulfil a variety of different underwater roles.
By modifying the search patterns and the sensors, REMUS can be used in search and rescue operations as well as environmental hydrographic searches and coastline mapping.