QinetiQ has secured a £4.2m contract with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) to deliver a command and control demonstration system for the coordination of multiple unmanned vehicles.

Leading a team comprising BAE Systems, Thales and Seebyte, QinetiQ will develop a transportable solution capable of integrating unmanned systems from multiple suppliers. The objective is to minimise the number of screens and controls needed to conduct missions, improving efficiency and mitigating the risk of human error by reducing the burden on operators.

The system is intended for deployment at sea during the Royal Navy’s Unmanned Warrior showcase, where it will support a series of demonstrations, including a comparison of mine countermeasures carried out by manned and unmanned craft. Unmanned Warrior will take place alongside the Joint Warrior exercise in October 2016, with many of the key elements undertaken on or using range facilities operated by QinetiQ on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence.

Dr. Philip Smith, ship systems and integrated survivability programme manager, DSTL, said: "The control of multiple vehicles from different vendors and across the land, sea and air environments will be a major achievement. This project is an important component in helping to shape the Royal Navy’s exploitation of unmanned vehicles, and will make significant progress in their integration into the combat system."

Commander Peter Pipkin of the Royal Navy said: "This is an important part of showing the true potential of unmanned systems. Being able to demonstrate the end-to-end flow of information to enable better decision making is key and an important enabler for our demonstrations next year."

The work is being led by QinetiQ’s Maritime Systems team, working as part of the QinetiQ Maritime Autonomy Centre (QMAC) in Portsmouth. QMAC was established in 2013 to accelerate the UK’s adoption of autonomous systems by facilitating their design, development, testing and evaluation.

QMAC is positioned to capitalise on the growing importance of autonomous systems, which First Sea Lord Sir Admiral George Zambellas has said "will revolutionise maritime operations". Global Marine Technology Trends 2030, a report published in September 2015 by Lloyd’s Register, QinetiQ and the University of Southampton, cited Maritime Autonomous Systems as being the biggest driver of advancement in maritime security for more than a century.

Sarah Kenny, managing director for QinetiQ’s maritime business, said: "We established QMAC two years ago, having recognised the crucial role that autonomy will play in future maritime operations.

"In the short time since its inception, QMAC has gone from strength to strength. This contract is testament to the innovation, expertise and facilities at QinetiQ, which are helping the UK to lead the way in this vital emerging sector."