Royal Navy’s future concepts competition trawls the world of biomimicry

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The Nautilus 100 mothership is designed to stay underwater for extended periods, moving between underwater docks

20 young engineers and scientists have submitted their concepts for the future of marine vessels to the British Royal Navy, drawing heavily on life under the deep blue sea to create mechanical eels and giant rays.

The designers, aged 16 to 34, were challenged to ‘visioneer’ a new generation of underwater craft for combat in the future – leading to ideas such as shape-morphing 3D printed structures, plasma batteries and shoals of dissolvable drones.

Commissioned in honour of the USS Nautilus, the world’s first operational nuclear submarine, the designs include the main ship – shaped like a giant ray/whale hybrid, and several autonomous vehicles and weapons that can be launched from it.

Dissolvable underwater drones, useful for spying, escorting and melting away when finished – like a weaponised washing detergent capsule

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Meanwhile, the next generation of surface craft has already been conceptualised as Project Starpoint, or ‘Dreadnought 2050’. Designed by a collective of defence companies and the MoD, the futuristic craft aims to feature a hull that can be turned transparent, stealthy lines, and a fleet of drones all built on board by a 3D printer.

The Royal Navy Starpoint concept


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