Thales has entered into a major five-year research partnership with the University of Southampton, which will help to shape the future of the Royal Navy.

Only the second such agreement that Thales has made with a British university, the partnership brings together some of the most talented scientific minds in the world.

The first project will look at maritime autonomous vehicles – a particular area of interest for the Royal Navy – to develop the technology, processes and procedures needed to empower the next generation of unmanned boats, submarines and aircraft.

A deeper university-business relationship

Thales has previously worked with the university on several other successful projects, including experimentation with aircraft connectivity, unmanned aerial systems and quantum navigation technology, but the new arrangement will create an even closer and more productive relationship.

Importantly, the agreement creates a common framework which can be applied to each project, regardless of its scope and purpose, and makes it easier to launch and develop these activities. It will also create valuable spin-off opportunities for many small-to medium-sized businesses.

Developing new capabilities for the Royal Navy

The Royal Navy has recently tested some of Thales’s maritime autonomous technology including unmanned air vehicles and Halcyon, an autonomous boat. These and other vessels have the potential to be used in self-governing fleets, as well as individually, to perform extended surveillance and life-saving mine clearance operations.

In many ways, the partnership between the University of Southampton and Thales is an ideal match. Both perform world-class maritime research and Thales already has a strong South Coast presence, including a Maritime Autonomy Centre at Turnchapel Wharf, Plymouth, where deep water tests can be performed.

By teaming up with Thales, scientists at the University of Southampton can immerse themselves in the practical application of autonomous maritime technology and the real-world challenges of making the world a safer place.