Autopilot

The UK's southern drift has been tapped as a test zone for the future's independent ships and planes. A group of companies will cooperate to fund the service’s infrastructure.

The new service will be prepared for use later this year and clients will have the capacity to direct trials and test systems, such as unmanned watercrafts, air vehicles and self-sufficient sensors in a protected, controlled and realistic environment in the Solent. Supported by a comprehensive safety case, the system will make use of a secure maritime communications network and a mobile command and control center, featuring the same technology BAE Systems provides to UK Royal Navy platforms.

BAE Systems will work together with ASV Worldwide (ASV), Blue Bear Frameworks Exploration (Blue Bear), Marine Electronic Frameworks (MES), SeeByte and the College of Southampton. The Solent LEP and accomplice associations are putting £1.5 million in this project, the first of its kind in the UK.

Frank Cotton, BAE Systems’ Combat Systems Head of Technology 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 organizations from the defense 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. The Solent area has a growing number of world class organizations operating in the autonomy sector.”

In October 2016, BAE Systems and the test service partners successfully showcased their autonomous maritime capabilities in the Royal Navy’s ‘Unmanned Warrior’ exercise.

Photo by: Mark Harkin/ Flickr