The first testing service for autonomous maritime vehicles is to be delivered by BAE Systems.
With a grant awarded of £457,000 from Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the service is due to be launched later this year.
Based around Portsmouth, Southampton and the South East of the Isle of Wight, BAE Systems together with ASV Global (ASV), Blue Bear Systems Research (Blue Bear), Marine Electronic Systems (MES), SeeByte and the University of Southampton, will work together to provide the service’s infrastructure, with other organisations set to join later this year. A secure maritime communications network, together with a state-of-the-art mobile command and control centre will be maintained by the centre.
Some £1.5M is being invested in the project by Solent LEP and its partners, which will allow customers 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.
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. The Solent area has a growing number of world class organisations operating in the autonomy sector and we are excited to be working with ASV, Blue Bear, MES, SeeByte and the University of Southampton to launch this concept this week. It is anticipated that the full test service will go live later this year.”
Solent LEP Maritime Chairman Ian Millen said: “The Solent is the heart of the UK’s Marine and Maritime sector and the assets we possess enable the region, its businesses and the UK economy to compete globally. From the Port of Southampton, the most productive port in Europe, to Portsmouth Naval Base, HQ of the Royal Navy and soon to be home to the largest aircraft carriers in UK history, the Solent is used to making waves on an international stage. 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.”
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