US-based technology company L3Harris Technologies, in partnership with Austal USA, has successfully installed an autonomous control suite on the US Navy’s Spearhead-class ship, the future USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13).
Following the installation, the companies also demonstrated the L3Harris’ perception and autonomy control suite, also called ASView, during the ship’s acceptance trials.
Trials for the future expeditionary fast transport (EPF) ship began in June and were completed on 29 August.
During the trials, USNS Apalachicola achieved more than 120 hours of autonomous navigation.
This was done in accordance with the International Regulations for Prevention of Collision at Sea (COLREGS).
To confirm that the vessel is COLREGS-compliant, Apalachicola was put under different scenarios to test ASView’s capability to perform safe autonomous manoeuvres.
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In addition, the autonomous suite allowed the future EPF 13 to match the movement and speed of another vessel.
This process, known as ‘station keeping’, was also validated during the trials.
Other systems and technologies that were evaluated during the trials include the McQ Sonowatch acoustic sensor, the FutureWaves system, the Biral weather sensor and a hull-monitoring system.
L3Harris’ McQ Sonowatch allowed Apalachicola to detect maritime sounds such as a vessel’s horn. It supports the COLREGS-compliant capability.
The FutureWaves weather sensor and hull-monitoring system enabled EPF 13 to navigate around, through and in response to different sea and weather conditions.
Last year, the US Navy awarded a $44m contract to Austal USA for integrating autonomous capabilities into Apalachicola.
Once delivered, the future Spearhead-class vessel EPF 13 will be the Navy’s largest autonomous-capable platform, equipped with L3Harris’ ASView suite.
The high-speed, shallow draft EPF vessels can perform intra-theatre transport of equipment and personnel, as well as transport nearly 600t of military cargo at an average speed of 35 knots.