A tiny drone flies high above the distinctive main mast of destroyer HMS Diamond as the Royal Navy tests remote-controlled aircraft to survey its fleet.
Trials have been carried out in Portsmouth Naval Base to see whether the small craft can produce a high-quality survey of its ships – and in particular hard-to-access sections.
Normally cherry pickers or a tower of scaffolding is erected around the mast of a Type 45 destroyer if engineers want to inspect the state of the structure, which rises more than 100ft above the waterline and carries the Sampson radar which acts as the eyes of the Sea Viper missile system – the Royal Navy’s main weapon against air attack.
Erecting scaffolding can take days or weeks and even when using a cherry picker the ship has to be turned around at the jetty for a thorough inspection of the mast.
With a Remotely-Piloted Aerial System – as the RN likes to call drones – a quick inspection can be carried out in 30 minutes.
Although the craft tested above and around HMS Diamond weighs just 2.5kg, it can withstand winds of up to 30kts – and found itself buffeted by gusts approaching that speed while being tested.
There will be more trials involving this and other unmanned technologies over the next 16 months in the run up to a Joint Warrior exercise in Scotland in the autumn of 2016 when there will be a major demonstration of automated naval systems.
Image: Royal Navy