Defence, Manufacturing News

Austal Australia completes sea trials for Royal Australian Navy

Austral Australia have announced the collaborative Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial (PBAT) project has successfully completed Sea Acceptance Trials of the remote and autonomously operated vessel, Sentinel.

The trials, conducted by Austal Australia, consisted of a series of remote and autonomous navigation events conducted off the Western Australian coastline during March and April 2024; utilising Greenroom Robotics’ Advanced Maritime Autonomy (GAMA) Software to reliably navigate the de-commissioned Armidale-class Patrol Boat.

Funded by the Commonwealth of Australia, PBAT is a collaboration between Austal Australia, Greenroom Robotics, Trusted Autonomous Systems and the Royal Australian Navy Warfare Innovation Navy (WIN) Branch to establish robotic, automated and autonomous elements on a former Navy patrol boat to provide a proof-of-concept demonstrator, for optionally crewed or autonomous operations.

Austal Limited chief executive officer Paddy Gregg said the completion of the sea trials marks a significant milestone in the Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial, successfully demonstrating the capability of the locally developed autonomous systems and their integration within a full-size, Australian made naval vessel.

The trial has also explored the legal, regulatory pathways and requirements of operating an autonomous vessel.

In 2022, Austal Australia took possession of the decommissioned HMAS Maitland from the Commonwealth of Australia, renamed the vessel ‘Sentinel’ and commenced planning, modification, testing and evaluation of autonomous and remotely operated systems for the Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial (PBAT).

“Looking ahead, we are excited about the potential opportunities to work with Navy to further advance the autonomous technology demonstrated during the trial; on projects such as the Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels (LOSV), recently announced by the Australian Government as part of the Surface Combatant Fleet Review,” said Gregg.

The PBAT Objectives include:

  • Significantly progress the concept of remote operations and the autonomous certification approach;
  • Increase the understanding of fuel management, communication, and navigation systems to be made autonomous;
  • Investigate and understand the sustained operation of shipboard mechanical systems without crew intervention, including systems of redundancy and reliability to support operations at sea for extended periods;
  • Provide input to long-term risk reduction for future naval projects, considering remote or autonomous vessels. This will be extended to other sensors and autonomous vehicles once the initial trial is complete; and
  • Transfer lessons learned on the application of remote or autonomous systems to the Royal Australian Navy’s current fleet to potentially optimise crew workload. Remote and autonomous operation has the potential to reduce crew workload and increase operational safety by reducing human error.

Greenroom Robotics chief technology officer Harry Hubbert said “This collaborative effort not only has the potential to enhance current operations and platforms but also paves the way for unprecedented advancements on the horizon.”

TAS chief executive officer Glen Schafer said “Trusted Autonomous Systems are extremely impressed and proud of the achievements of the PBAT project.”

Commodore Michael Turner, Navy’s director general warfare innovation navy said “PBAT stands out not only for its demonstration of autonomous technology and its practical application to operational vessels, but also for the spirit of collaboration that underpinned its success.”

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