L3 ASV has completed a series of demonstrations of its MAST-9 unmanned surface vessel (USV) at the Australian Defence Showcase, Autonomous Warrior 18 in Jervis Bay.

The testing was carried out in support of the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). L3 ASV and Dstl completed around 1,380km of autonomous reconnaissance missions at the exercise.

During demonstrations, L3 ASV operated the 9m-long MAST-9 vessel equipped with advanced autonomous navigation capability to perform reconnaissance, interdiction and patrol tasks.

The company operated the USV in fully autonomous mode, including COLREG aware collision avoidance to prevent collision with other vessels during the two-week event.

MAST-9 cruised at speeds of up to 40k for more than 80 hours. It performed seven different task types, which were loiter, shadow, interdict, survey, patrol, target tracking and inspection.

L3 ASV Autonomous Systems R&D lead Dr Howard Tripp said: “The reliability and consistency of the system was solid proof of the use case for autonomous surface platforms for persistent inspection and tracking at range, particularly in challenging environmental conditions.

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“The exercise successfully showcased an integrated system of systems approach to executing autonomous defence tasks with little or no human intervention.”

“There were instances where the weather dictated that manned vessels had to return to harbour, the autonomous vessel, by its nature, was not subject to these concerns and was able to operate normally. This is where the real value in autonomy lies.”

L3 ASV noted that MAST-9 completed around 100 tasks commanded from the Maritime Autonomous Platform Exploitation (MAPLE) system, which was delivered by a Dstl-led consortium for integration on UK Royal Navy warships.

The company’s autonomous control system ASView was used to communicate operational status and payload feedback to and from MAPLE.

MAPLE allows the integration of data sourced by unmanned vehicle into a ship’s tactical picture display.

An optical and infrared camera fitted on MAST-9 allowed the vehicle to showcase high-speed inspection capability.

Using the ASView control system, remote mission commanders could track and follow target vessels for interdiction tasks.

Dstl Platform Systems Division Defensive Surface Warfare Ian Campbell said: “The exercise successfully showcased an integrated system of systems approach to executing autonomous defence tasks with little or no human intervention.

“The ability to interface with the MAPLE system, coupled with the reliability of the vessel system, was key to the success of this demonstration.”

Autonomous Warrior 18 is an exercise conducted by the Royal Australian Navy and its Defence Science Technology (DST) Group with participation from Australia, the UK, the US, New Zealand and Canada. The exercise is aimed at using the unmanned systems to conduct military and constabulary operations.