Rolls-Royce has revealed plans for an electric autonomous, single-role, naval vessel with a range of 3,500 nautical miles. The vessel concept is capable of operating beyond the horizon for over 100 days, will displace 700 tons and reach speeds above 25kts. The 60m-long vessel is designed to perform a range of single-role missions, such as patrol and surveillance, mine detection or fleet screening. The initial design features a full electric propulsion system comprising two Rolls-Royce MTU 4000 Series gensets providing around 4MW electrical power to a 1.5MW propulsion drive. According to the company, permanent-magnet Azipull thrusters together with a bow-mounted tunnel thruster will make the vessel highly manoeuvrable. To reduce fuel consumption and extend operational range, an additional 3,000kWh of energy storage will facilitate efficient low-speed loiter operations, and the vessel will also be fitted with photovoltaic solar panels to generate power when the vessel is on standby. According to Benjamin Thorp, general manager for naval electrics, automation and control, Rolls-Royce is seeing interest from major navies in autonomous, rather than remote-controlled, ships. Such ships offer a way to deliver increased operational capability, reduce the risk to crew and cut both operating and build costs. Over the next 10 years or so, Rolls-Royce expects to see the introduction of medium-sized unmanned platforms, particularly in leading navies, as the concept of mixed manned and unmanned fleets develops.
Dean has been with UKi Media & Events for over a decade, having previously cut his journalistic teeth writing and editing for various automotive and engineering titles. He combines extensive knowledge of all things automotive with a passion for driving, and experience testing countless new vehicles, engines and technologies around the world. As well as his role as editor-in-chief across a range of UKi's media titles, he is also co-chair of the judging panel of the International Engine of the Year Awards.