News: UK's first maritime autonomous systems testing service launched
BAE Systems are to deliver the UK's first dedicated autonomous systems testing service, following funding from Solent LEP.
The new service will be ready for use later this year and customers will be able to conduct trials and test systems such as unmanned boats, air vehicles and autonomous sensors in a safe, controlled and realistic environment in the Solent. Backed by a comprehensive safety case, the service will make use of a secure maritime communications network and a mobile command and control centre, featuring the same technology BAE Systems provides to UK Royal Navy platforms.
In October 2016, BAE Systems and the test service partners successfully showcased their autonomous maritime capabilities in the Royal Navy’s ‘Unmanned Warrior’ exercise – the world’s first large scale demonstration of innovative maritime robotic systems. BAE Systems’ bespoke ACER (Autonomous Control Exploitation and Realisation) system provided a seamless flow of information from sensors on the unmanned boats to crews on the hosting warships. One of the unmanned boats used in the Unmanned Warrior exercise was BAE Systems’ Pacific Class 950 Unmanned Rigid Inflatable Boat which is capable of travelling autonomously at up to 47kts for up to 12 hours at a time. The autonomous technology on the Pacific Class 950 can be retro-fitted to existing boats.
Solent LEP Maritime Chairman, Ian Millen said:
"The Solent is the heart of the UK’s maritime sector and the assets we possess enable the region, its businesses and the UK economy to compete globally."
"The key to this success has always been founded in innovation and, through our investment to create the UK’s first autonomous systems testing service in the Solent, the LEP will ensure that the area and its businesses, large and small, continue to be a driving force for UK innovation for years to come.”
BAE Systems’ Combat Systems Head of Technology, Frank Cotton said:
“Autonomous and unmanned systems are widely regarded as a vital technology for the future, but there is a great deal of work to be done if we are to unlock its true potential and understand how they are best integrated into wider systems.
"A wide range of organisations from the defence and commercial sectors, along with academia, have ambitions for this technology and this unique service will allow them to find valuable ways to use it whilst furthering its development."