Operational Capabilities of Maritime Autonomous Systems to be Enhanced

By Mike Ball / 02 Jun 2021
Project Wilton Iver AUVs
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Project Wilton Iver AUVs

SeeByte and Sonardyne have been awarded funding by the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) for phase 2 of the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA)’s Autonomy in Challenging Environments competition, which will build on the work undertaken by both companies in the first phase. The goal of the project is to enhance and extend the future operational capability of autonomous and remotely operated systems in challenging battlespace domains.

The two companies will integrate Sonardyne’s advanced underwater positioning system with the adaptive, communication-aware, robotic behaviour developed for SeeByte’s Neptune autonomy system, to provide a framework that will allow uncrewed maritime systems (UMS) to operate in highly complex, variable and communications-limited environments. SeeByte will also provide its semantic compression software that will allow automatic target recognition imagery snippets to be transferred acoustically.

Sonardyne and SeeByte will be using surface and underwater assets from Project Wilton, a recently formed maritime autonomous systems (MAS) team based out of HM Naval Base Clyde. The collaboration will culminate in a series of in-water demonstrations at Project Wilton facilities in the UK. The ultimate goal of the project is to enable optimal unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) distribution for improved subsea communications and navigation in a range of challenging environments.

Sonardyne will install a Mini-Ranger 2 underwater positioning system onboard Project Wilton’s ARCIMS unmanned surface vessel (USV) and AvTrak 6 Nano telemetry and tracking transceivers on the team’s Iver 3 autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), which will be managed by SeeByte’s autonomous networked acoustic communications system. In addition, Sonardyne’s SPRINT-Nav instrument will also be integrated with the ARCIMS USV to provide an independent navigation reference in GNSS-denied environments.

Ioseba Tena, Head of Defence at Sonardyne, commented: “Collaborative autonomy is part of the maritime defence road map. We need to enable more robots and have fewer operators in the underwater battlespace. Working alongside leaders in autonomy development like SeeByte, to make that vision a reality, as part of the Autonomy in Challenging Environments competition, is a significant step towards that goal.”

Andrea Munafo, Technical Program Manager at SeeByte, said: “UMS operate in challenging environments and they need to be robust against faltering communications and navigation. Partnering with Sonardyne makes it possible for our autonomous systems to consider both during real-time execution and hence to improve the effectiveness of future underwater missions.”

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact