Technology and management services provider Serco has completed Phase 1A concept design work for a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) programme.

Called ‘No Manning Required, Ship (NOMARS) X-Ship’, the programme aims to build and demonstrate an unmanned surface vessel capable of autonomous operations at sea for extended periods of time.

In addition, DARPA down selected Serco’s Voyager team for the programme’s Phase 1B preliminary design work.

The team also comprises Metron and Wartsila Defense.

Serco programme manager Nate Miller said: “DARPA has enabled us to do something cutting edge in Naval Engineering. We not only interrogate why a concept is a superior performer, but we now pinpoint each concept on the frontier of dominated alternatives.

“We can then consider it against the customer’s measures of merit, which not only helps create confidence in a particular ship point design, but we are able to quantify the relative trades, allowing for better informed requirements.”

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Serco noted that DARPA expects to award Phase 2 contracts in the first quarter of fiscal year 2022 (Q1-FY22). A demo event is planned for Q3-FY24.

The programme’s second phase involves risk reduction, construction, and initial at-sea demonstration efforts.

Serco Lead Reliability Engineer Ryan Maatta said: “We really wanted to push the limits with this design, and DARPA has structured this contract in a way that allows us the freedom to consider a wide range of traditional and emergent technologies, it really is an exciting time to be in the field, it’s the kind of work that if you are lucky comes around a few times in a career and really makes it all worth it, we have a great group of engineers and sharp industry partners.”

Last year, DARPA said in a broad agency announcement that it wants to ‘explore the NOMARS design space from Conceptual Design Review (CoDR) through Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and system definition.’