UK Partners Launch Autonomous Navigation Project
As unmanned surface vessels continue to gain ground globally, a new project in the U.K. sets out to address challenges relating to the coexistence of autonomous systems and traditional manned vessels in shared water space.
The £1.2 million ($1.6 million) research project, dubbed SWANS (Shared Waterspace Autonomous Navigation by Satellite), is funded by the U.K.’s innovation agency Innovate UK. Project lead BMT will work with partners ASV Global and Deimos Space UK to enable beyond line of sight, over the horizon, autonomous behavior by unmanned surface vessels in areas of congested maritime traffic.
“Currently, autonomous vessels largely use AIS as a collision avoidance tool but remain at risk of colliding with vessels or objects not using AIS. Others rely upon waterspace management and the actions of other water users to avoid collisions – neither of which go far enough in reducing the risk of a collision occurring,” explained Phil Thompson, Managing Director at BMT. “This funding is critical in helping us to overcome this barrier by developing the first ever commercially ready, safe over the horizon operating system for congested waterspaces.”
The project team will focus on four main objectives, including exploiting satellite sensing technology and enabling the delivery of a higher fidelity world model for vessel operators/supervisors; simulating new scenarios for ASV operations; combining, for the first time, ASV Global’s autonomous vessel control simulator and BMT’s REMBRANDT ship maneuvering simulator into a single suite capable of visualizing different datasets in 3D and to evaluate new multi-vessel conflict scenarios in the real-world.
Deimos Space UK, the British subsidiary of Elecnor Deimos, will investigate how the exploitation of existing and future satellite capabilities can contribute to this objective.
Vince Dobbin, Sales and Marketing Director at ASV Global, said, “This project has the potential to open up a multitude of applications for the operation of ASVs in busy waterspaces. It is a follow on from the over the horizon operations we have already carried out with our fleet of ASVs using our advance autonomous navigation system.”
Thompson said, “Bringing best in class expertise together, we will produce the necessary tools to facilitate both improved over the horizon navigation for ASVs, as well as pilot training on how to interact and manage ASVs in congested waterways. Only by bridging this knowledge gap can we accelerate the wider adoption of unmanned systems and increase trust in their feasibility by mariners around the world.”