A high-tech minesweeper built for the Royal Navy by a Winfrith company has been put through its paces in Weymouth Bay.

The pioneering Hussar craft is the Fleet's first unmanned minesweeper specifically designed to deal with explosives to keep sailors out of harm's way.

As reported in the Echo in May, it was developed by Atlas Elektronik (AEUK) as part of a £13 million contract which created dozens of new quality jobs.

The craft was unveiled at Bincleaves when it was formally handed over to Navy chiefs.

It has since been undergoing trials off the Dorset coast and Scotland, overseen by the Royal Navy's Maritime Autonomous Systems Trials Team (MASTT).

The 36ft long 'mother ship' Hussar is trailed by a group of small, hi-tech 'coil auxiliary' boats (CABs) which cleverly clear minefields en masse.

Modern mines can be sophisticated enough to take out a specific ship if they know its magnetic, electric or acoustic field or noise as it moves through the ocean.

To combat this, the CABs replicate ship signatures to trigger the mines and deflect any resultant blast so that damage is minimal.

After trails, Hussar will be sent to the Canadian Arctic to see how it operates in cold weather, then to the Gulf for the opposite end of the temperature scale.

If successful, four Hussars will be commissioned with all their associated equipment and support.

Lieutenant Commander Dave Stanbury, the Royal Navy's MASTT team leader, said: "Modern sea mines remain a constant threat – as do historic ones.

"This is a very basic system which performs outstandingly when out on the water.

"It's easy to understand, easy to train operators. Above all it takes the sailor out of danger – you'd no longer have to send a minehunter into a minefield.

"Instead, you can operate the system from a port or a mother ship. It is a game changer."

Commander Mark Atkinson added: "In the digital age, magnetic minesweeping was becoming obsolete – it goes back to World War Two. It could not deal with modern, digital mines."

He added: "Everything so far has pointed to the system doing what we expect it to.

"When you see what it can do, it sells itself. But it is not the end of the minehunter.

"There are still mines out there which you will not be able to sweep. You need all the tools in your pocket – this is just one of them."