Boaty McBoatface meets the public at the Science Museum

12 June 2019

Visitors to the Science Museum can meet a scale model of the Autosub Long Range (ALR) known as Boaty McBoatface as part of an exhibition opening today.

Boaty McBoatface

Boaty McBoatface is displayed as part of the museum's free exhibition Driverless: who's in control?. From self-driving cars and autonomous flying drones to smart underwater vehicles like Boaty, the exhibition will explore how much driverless technology already exists and how their wider deployment could shape our habits, behaviour and society.

Visitors will have the chance to explore three distinctive zones in the exhibition: Land, Air and Water. Each section will explore the driverless technology solutions already operating in these environments, the motivations of their developers, and their potential to transform a range of activities and industries. Boaty will be displayed in the Water zone of the exhibition.

ALR Boaty McBoatface was commissioned by NERC, and a fleet of the vehicles is being built and developed by the National Oceanography Centre for scientific research, including studying the effects of climate change. Unlike previous fully autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), the type bearing the Boaty name can be at sea for weeks to months, far greater than anything currently available, which have to be recovered after a few hours to a couple of days.

Although other long range autonomous underwater vehicles are in development, the Boaty McBoatface ALR already has a proven track record of operating in challenging environments such as the deep ocean and under ice. In 2018, it spent a total of 51 hours underneath the Antarctic ice, travelling 108km and reaching water depths of 994m during its deployment. By running more slowly and efficiently than other models and utilising new navigational technologies, Boaty has the potential to undertake ambitious future missions such as a trans-Arctic under-ice crossing.

NERC Head of Marine Research Dr Mike Webb said:

NERC's investment in marine robotics, including the much talked about Boaty McBoatface developed at the National Oceanography Centre, is world-leading. NERC-funded marine robotics are already delivering new insight into some of the Earth's most remote ocean waters, helping oceanographers investigate the processes driving change, without the need for the constant presence of a research ship. The Driverless: who's in control? exhibition at the Science Museum is a rare opportunity for the public to get up close with cutting-edge marine robotics and learn about how they could greatly advance our understanding of the oceans and climate.

Alison Robinson, NERC Director of Corporate Affairs, said:

We're very excited for Boaty to appear at the Science Museum. More people than ever before will have the chance to meet an iconic piece of marine robot technology and learn more about how technology is helping us meet the challenges of ocean research, unlocking future discoveries for environmental solutions.

The ALR known as Boaty McBoatface was named in 2016 as part of NERC's Name Our Ship campaign. While the UK's new polar research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough was ultimately named after the esteemed natural historian and broadcaster, the state-of-the-art ALRs used alongside research ships were given the popular, humorous name.

The exhibition commences with an evening launch event on 12 June and is open daily until October 2020, with late opening (18:45 to 22:00) on the last Wednesday of each month for Lates. For more information please visit the Science Museum website - external link.

Further information

Josie Rylands
Press & Communications Officer
01793 411787


1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is part of UK Research & Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.