BMT Awarded New Funding for Autonomous Navigation

BMT will take the lead in a new £1.2million research project funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. Collaborating with ASV Global and Deimos Space UK, BMT will seek to address the challenge of how traditional manned vessels can co-exist with autonomous systems in shared water space.

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.

The SWANS (Shared Waterspace Autonomous Navigation by Satellite) project will, for the first time, enable beyond line of sight, over the horizon, autonomous behaviour by unmanned surface vessels in areas of congested maritime traffic.

Phil Thompson, Managing Director at BMT comments: “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. 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.”

Vince Dobbin, Sales and Marketing Director at ASV Global says: “We’re delighted to be continuing our long-standing working relationship with BMT. 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.”

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 manoeuvring simulator into a single suite capable of visualising different datasets in 3D and to evaluate new multi-vessel conflict scenarios in the real-world.

Phil Thompson continues: “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.”