The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group have conducted a week-long sea trial to show a new capability to manage autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV).

The trial saw the use of an unmanned service vessel (USV) on the water as a communication gateway for several AUVs.

Industry partner Ocius Technologies was contracted by DST for the supply of the USV. It was operated from MV Kimbla.

The new technology capability was tested in a higher sea state.

RAN Mine Warfare Clearance Diving Force Element Group capability realisation engineer lieutenant James Keane added: “Using a USV in this way allowed the operators to remotely view the live status of the vehicle when it was on the surface and gave HQ the ability to reconfigure the vehicle or change its mission parameters in between dives.

“Next year we want to continue proving the capability of a surface vehicle to monitor AUVs and also to increase the interoperability between the USV and multiple AUVs.”

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The capability demonstration took place at HMAS Creswell, Jervis Bay in December 2019 during an event called Summerfest. About 32 AUV experts from navy, DST, industry and academia participated in the event.

The Summerfest offers a platform to different stakeholders of the industry to discuss, share information and suggest solutions to the common challenges faced by the AUV industry environment.

In addition, the trials allowed navy engineers to manifest the growth progress made last year in AUV-applied research and operations.

Keane said: “Summerfest was very much focused on users and developers of AUV behaviours, and the group was motivated to apply research and advance capability.

“Our aim was to see what progress had been made in our use of AUVs in the mine warfare and hydrographic communities so that we have a benchmark for our work in 2020.”