Royal Navy to test integration of unmanned systems

The UK Ministry of Defense has awarded Qinetiq a  £1m ($1.45m) contract to demonstrate the integration of unmanned systems into Royal Navy operations.

Under the contract with the Mine countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) team in the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), QinetiQ will provide a demonstration system to explore the integration of unmanned surface and underwater vehicles into Royal Navy operations.

The company said the system includes displays, software and computing infrastructure and is capable of integrating unmanned systems from multiple suppliers.

The demonstrator is expected to play a central role in the mine warfare themed aspects of Unmanned Warrior, the Royal Navy’s showcase of unmanned systems due to be held in October 2016. The activity will take place around the BUTEC facility in Scotland.

After the Unmanned Warrior exercise, the command and control system will be operated by the Royal Navy’s Maritime Autonomous Systems Trials Team (MASTT) as part of their suite of systems under evaluation and trials.

The new project follows a £4.2m contract with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), announced in November 2015, to deliver a similar command and control demonstration system for the co-ordination of multiple unmanned vehicles. It gives the MHC programme the means to fully understand the technology risks and performance boundaries for unmanned systems and to explore how to integrate equipment into an overall capability. As such, it complements work on the UK-French Maritime Mine Counter Measures programme and the UK Sweep capability demonstrator as the newest of the MHC demonstrators.

Based on established mine countermeasures tools and components developed by a number of previously independent research activities, the solution fuses local and remote sensor data and is hosted on the Dstl Open Architecture Combat System (OACS). Integral mission planning and management applications enable operation of a range of vehicles from different suppliers, Qinetiq explained.