An unmanned boat that will eventually be used to spy at sea has had its first trial run this week on the Thames.

The 32ft vessel – with the snappy title Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed, or Mast for short – can be controlled by remote control or operated without guidance. However, for its jaunt on the Thames on Tuesday, it had a coxswain on board.

MAST on the Thames (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)


It also had to adhere to speed limits, which wasn’t very exciting.

Mast and its escort HMS Archer took the trip down the river as part of preparations for the Royal Navy’s Unmanned Warrior exercise this autumn, where military drones of all descriptions will be brought together in events off the coasts off west Wales, the Western Isles and north-west Scotland.

In 2014 the Royal Navy tested an remote controlled boat and in 2015 BAE Systems revealed an unmanned boat that could be used by the Royal Navy.

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