It seems that the government is intent on focussing on autonomous systems, with the green light for driverless cars being only the beginning. The Ministry of Defence has set its sites on maritime unmanned vehicles, which offer 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, said: “If we are to fully exploit these opportunities we need to invest in key areas such as supervised autonomy and deployment and 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 four initiatives is a significant step towards achieving this.”
Maritime autonomous systems technology competition
It follows news that the government has picked Portsmouth to be the home of a new 4m defence research base looking into such technologies. The competition, sponsored by Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, addresses underwater unmanned vehicles and unmanned surface vehicles for defence applications. It will be directed at SMEs that can create or safeguard jobs in the local defence supply chain. The total funding available is worth 1m 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
This competition, addressing unmanned system enablers for all environments, is worth 1.5m. Open from September 2014 for a year, it will award projects of around 250,000 to be split into two phases.
Adaptive autonomous ocean sampling networks competition
The Small Business Research Initiative competition, sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council and Dstl, will take a closer look at the tracking of dynamic maritime features with unmanned vehicles. Their strategic plans call for new capabilities in marine robotics, for environmental research and for defence and security respectively. With a total of 1.5m available the competition is open from September 2014 for 18 months and will award projects of around 250,000 to be split into two phases.
Recently announced by minister for Portsmouth, Matthew Hancock, the competition is set to concentrate on maritime unmanned vehicles for defence and civil applications. Unlike the other three initiatives, it will open from October 2014 for three years and is worth 5. The competition will award projects of between 500,000 and 1.5m directed to collaborative, business-led, consortia.