BAE Systems has secured a grant to design and launch the first testing service for maritime autonomous systems in Solent, UK.

The £457,000 grant was awarded by UK-based firm Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and is part of the wider £1.5m investment planned for the project, which has been outlined by the company and other partner organisations.

Work under the initiative will be carried out in Portsmouth, Southampton and the south-east of the Isle of Wight, and will see BAE Systems collaborate with ASV Global, Blue Bear Systems Research, Marine Electronic Systems (MES), SeeByte and the University of Southampton to provide the infrastructure for the service.

Other organisations are set to join the project later this year.

Solent LEP maritime chairman Ian Millen said: “From the Port of Southampton, the most productive port in Europe, to Portsmouth Naval Base, headquarters (HQ) of the Royal Navy and soon to be home to the largest aircraft carriers in UK history, the Solent is used to making waves on an international stage.

"The LEP will ensure that the area and its businesses, large and small, continue to be a driving force for UK innovation for years to come."

“The key to this success has always been founded in innovation, and through our investment to create the UK’s first autonomous systems testing service in the Solent the LEP will ensure that the area and its businesses, large and small, continue to be a driving force for UK innovation for years to come.”

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The new testing service is scheduled to become operational later this year and will allow customers to perform trials and tests for various systems such as unmanned boats, air vehicles and autonomous sensors under a safe, controlled and realistic environment in the Solent.

Additionally, the service will make use of a secure maritime communications network, and a mobile command and control centre, which will feature the same technology BAE Systems currently offers to British Royal Navy platforms.

BAE and the test service partners previously demonstrated their maritime robotic systems capabilities in the Royal Navy’s ‘Unmanned Warrior’ exercise that was held in Scotland in October 2016.

Image: Maritime autonomous system. Photo: courtesy of BAE Systems.