Unmanned drone ship trialled as a way of finding Channel migrants

Hi-tech 'Madfox' is a high-speed surveillance vessel tracking down people smugglers at sea

Migrants sit onboard a boat navigating in agitated waters between Sangatte and Cap Blanc-Nez (Cape White Nose), in the English Channel off the coast of northern France, as they attempt to cross the maritime borders between France and the United Kingdom on August 27, 2020. - The number of migrants crossing the English Channel -- which is 33,8 km (21 miles) at the closest point in the Straits of Dover --  in small inflatable boats has spiralled over the summer of the 2020. According to authorities in northern France some 6,200 migrants have attempted the crossing between January 1 and August 31, 2020, compared with 2,294 migrants for the whole of 2019. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)
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A drone ship is being trialled in the English Channel as a way of finding migrants trying to reach Britain from France.
The unmanned surveillance vessel, called Madfox, is controlled from another vessel, equipped with radar and cameras, and is capable of speeds of more than 40 knots.
Sensors on board are able to recognise specific vessel types, such as yachts or fishing boats, and also, it is hoped, migrants' boats as they set sail from France.
The boat, being tested by the Royal Navy, was trialled on Thursday in the English Channel - the world's busiest shipping lane - by the Border Force agency.

So far this year, about 8,000 people have made the perilous journey across the strait in more than 600 boats. In 2018, fewer than 500 people were detected entering Britain in small boats.
The numbers arriving by sea have risen partly because of the drop in lorry traffic travelling into the UK as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dan O'Mahoney, the UK's newly-appointed Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, confirmed the trials, based in Dover, were taking place.
"We are working day and night to secure our borders and to stop small boats crossing the channel, said Mr O'Mahoney, a former Royal Marine. "This new technology could help in our mission to make these crossings unviable by gathering evidence for prosecutions, preventing uncontrolled landings and supporting operations to save lives at sea."
Britain and France signed an agreement to tighten their borders against illegal migration across the English Channel on Saturday, as they pledged to increase sea and land patrols and use technology to close off the precarious route used by migrants to the UK.

UK interior minister Priti Patel said that under the agreement, the number of officers patrolling French beaches would be doubled, and drones and radar would be put to work.
Madfox was developed by the government's defence, science and technology laboratories and a specialist drone firm, L3Harris.
It took part in exercises earlier this year with the Navy's HMS Albion and the Royal Marines 47 Commando in Norway.

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