The UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has awarded a contract to QinetiQ to deliver Phase three of a multinational demonstration of unmanned and autonomous systems, as part of the UK Royal Navy’s Unmanned Warrior exercise.

Known as Hell Bay 4, which will be delivered under the Maritime Autonomy Framework (MAF), the demonstration will see a number of unmanned underwater, surface and air vehicles work co-operatively within several squads, and autonomously conduct mine countermeasure missions.

QinetiQ’s team includes Seebyte, Blue Bear Systems Research, and ASV. The third phase of the MAF will bring together underwater vehicles operated by the Royal Navy’s autonomous systems trials team, an unmanned C-Worker 5 surface vehicle provided by ASV, and the Blue Bear Blackstart UAV.

"We are really excited to be working with Dstl on this important programme."

The aim of Phase three of the framework is to provide situational awareness and communications relay to vehicles on and under the water.

QinetiQ programme lead Lisa Hunter-Yeats said: “We are really excited to be working with Dstl on this important programme.

“MAF has a really strong reputation in pushing the boundaries in maritime autonomy; we have great partners and a strong team and are looking forward to Unmanned Warrior in October.”

The MAF is a Dstl-led initiative and development programme that enables the UK to take part in a variety of regular multinational demonstrations and trials.

As part of the framework, Phase one will establish software and architecture to test unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), while Phase two will see the integration of an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) into a cooperative squad.

The contract work will be carried out by QinetiQ Maritime Autonomy Centre (QMAC), which was established in 2013 for the UK’s adoption of autonomous systems by aiding their design, development, testing, and evaluation.

Scheduled to take place in Scotland in October, the Unmanned Warrior will involve more than 40 different organisations and 50 vehicles participating in challenging military missions.

Image: ASV C-Worker 5 unmanned surface vehicle. Photo: courtesy of QinetiQ.