Sonardyne International has performed testing and validation of autonomous technologies for unmanned surface vehicles (USV) operating in challenging coastal environments, as part of a project funded by the UK’s national Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA). Working with a 12 m-long SEA-KIT X class unmanned surface vehicle (USV), The trials involved sensors already used by unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), mounted on a 12 metre-long SEA-KIT X class USV.
Sonardyne’s SPRINT-Nav hybrid inertial navigation instrument was integrated into the SEA-KIT X and tested against local real-time kinematic (RTK) GPS positioning, as part of the project’s aim to fast-track autonomous vehicle capability development in challenging waters. Loss of satellite-based timing signals needed for vessel navigation and positioning can occur due to tall structures in ports and harbours, or close to cliffs or inside fjords, where GPS or GNSS receivers may not have a clear line of sight with the sky. It can also happen through deliberate signal jamming or degrading of performance, known as spoofing.
SPRINT-Nav has already been widely used as a reliable navigation instrument for UUVs, which when submerged are almost always operating in GNSS-denied environments. It has now been successfully tested as a high-integrity, continuously available navigation solution for USVs operating in littoral zones with water depths of up to 150 m.
The SEA-KIT is a 10,000 nautical mile-range USV that can carry up to 2.5 tonnes of payload and also features the ability to deploy and recover autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). Its versatility makes is well suited to support naval missions such as intelligence gathering, hydrographic survey and providing communications gateways.
Sonardyne’s selection and funding award for this project are part of the Autonomy in a Dynamic World competition launched by the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). The competition aims to develop new unmanned systems solutions that address factors affecting the military effectiveness of current autonomous technologies.
Ioseba Tena, Global Business Manager, Defence and Marine Robotics at Sonardyne, commented: “Most USVs rely on uninterrupted GPS or GNSS signal updates to inform their situational awareness and plot a course safely. When there’s no signal, or what’s called spoofing or jamming, USVs must consider alternative navigation sensors and instruments or they need to be remotely piloted adding expense and risk to over-the-horizon operations.”
“By integrating SPRINT-Nav onto a USV, such as SEA-KIT, we have shown we can overcome this challenge, providing a continuous and resilient navigation in denied environments capability that will be ideally suited to challenging operations such as mine-counter measures (MCM).”
Helen Mullender, DASA project manager, stated: “The work being funded is to mature autonomous systems with the capability to operate on demand, under all conditions that may be encountered. Military operations are undertaken in all kinds of challenging environment. The inclusion of autonomous systems in these operations will demand their ability to operate effectively and efficiently regardless of the environment.”