The Ministry of Defence through the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and in partnership with a number of associations and industry bodies is making funding available through four initiatives each addressing different areas of maritime autonomy.
Autonomy in Maritime Unmanned Vehicles offers the potential to transform the manner in which many activities are conducted at sea such as the clearance of sea mines and persistent wide area surveillance.
Philip Smith, Affordable Maritime Presence Programme Manager at Dstl, says: “The opportunities presented by Maritime Autonomous Systems are very exciting. However if we are to fully exploit these opportunities we need to invest in key areas such as “Supervised Autonomy” and “Deployment & Recovery” in order to meet future requirements and position the UK as a world leader in next generation Maritime Mission Systems. The funding we are making available through these four initiatives is a significant step towards achieving this.”
The specific initiatives are:
- Maritime Autonomous Systems Technology Competition: Sponsored by Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, this competition addresses Underwater Unmanned Vehicles and Unmanned Surface Vehicles for defence applications and is directed at small and medium-sized enterprises in the Solent that can create or safeguard jobs in the local defence supply chain. The total funding available is worth £1 million and awards will be made for projects of up to £75,000 in value. The competition closes in April 2015;
- Autonomous Systems Underpinning Research Competition: Addressing unmanned system enablers for all environments this competition, sponsored by Dstl, is worth £1.5 million. Open from September 2014 for a year, the competition will award projects of around £250,000 to be split into 2 phases;
- Adaptive Autonomous Ocean Sampling Networks Competition: A Small Business Research Initiative competition sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council and Dstl addressing the tracking of dynamic maritime features with unmanned vehicles. With a total of £1.5 million available the competition is open from September 2014 for 18 months and will award projects of around £250,000 to be split into 2 phases;
- Towards Excellence in Maritime Autonomous Systems: Recently announced by the Minister for Portsmouth, Matthew Hancock, the competition sponsored by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, and Dstl addresses Maritime Unmanned Vehicles for defence and civil applications. Open from October 2014 for 3 years the competition is worth £5 million and will award projects of between £500,000 and £1.5 million directed to collaborative, business-led, consortia.