QinetiQ is to demonstrate the integration of unmanned systems into Royal Navy operations, under a £1m contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).
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 system includes displays, software and computing infrastructure, is fully transportable and capable of integrating unmanned systems from multiple suppliers.
The demonstrator will 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, operated by QinetiQ on behalf of the MOD under the Long-Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA)
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.
The objective of the overall programme is to minimise the number of bespoke screens and controls needed to conduct missions and improve efficiency through increased levels of system-to-system communication, minimising the risk of human error by reducing the burden on operators.
Both projects will be delivered by QinetiQ leading a team comprising BAE Systems, Thales, Seebyte and Atlas Elektronik UK.
Commander Mark Savage, MHC programme manager for the Royal Navy said: "I am excited to have this demonstrator on contract and look forward to seeing it in action in Unmanned Warrior.
"Integrated command and control is key to getting the most of the exciting potential offered by unmanned systems and this project gives us the means to really get to grips with what is at the heart of MHC."
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.
Sarah Kenny, managing director for QinetiQ’s Maritime, land and weapons business, said: "This contract is a real opportunity for the maritime defence enterprise to demonstrate successful transition of technology from the research domain to the end user.
"The project pulls together a number of separate research programmes and integrates these with existing equipment to fully enable RN MASTT planned activities at the same time as supporting the MHC Assessment Phase.
"QinetiQ is delighted that QMAC is already delivering value to the Royal Navy and I look forward to what promises to be an exciting future for this growing part of our business."