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New call for next generation sub-sea autonomous technologies


New call for next generation sub-sea autonomous technologies

Partners across industry and government are coming together to support the development of next generation  underwater autonomous systems that will significantly improve capabilities such as sensing, communications, endurance and operations creating potential opportunities in the defence and offshore energy sectors.

UK Research and Innovation’s Robots for a Safer World challenge is working with the Ministry of Defence and The Royal Navy, the Oil & Gas Technology Centre, BP, Oil & Gas Authority and the UK Defence Solutions Centre on a new £6 million competition for business-led projects.

Successful applicants will gain a place on a 5-day collaborative workshop to develop their proposals, then submit their final innovative and commercially viable new ideas.

Defence Minister James Heappey said:

“Our Armed Forces are operating in an era of extraordinary technological change so it’s vital we harness ideas from the world’s best innovators.  

“This cross-sector competition will find and fund ground-breaking new autonomous technologies which could revolutionise our ability to act in subsea environments.”

Andrew Tyrer, Robots for a Safer World challenge director, said:

“All the partners see a very clear purpose to this competition.  We want to encourage innovative projects that make trusted unmanned operations the standard approach in areas such as offshore energy, aquafarming, deep-sea mineral exploration and maritime defensive security operations.

“We would like to see ideas for example that will focus on how autonomous vessels can operate safely and efficiently over long periods of time without human intervention and without maintenance.”

In 2019 the MOD outlined a renewed approach to innovation in the Defence Technology Framework and the Defence Innovation Priorities documents, highlighting the importance of exploiting the best technologies from the civil sector.

In line with this strategy, this initiative promotes further cooperation between civil and military sectors, recognising that autonomous capabilities improve the efficiency and reach of operations in both areas.

Previous subsea autonomous projects funded by the ISCF Robots for a Safer World challenge include:

  • Advancing underwater vision for 3D project led by Rovco - common commercial remotely operated (underwater) vehicles have only a simple camera which requires significant skill to interpret imagery in order to conduct surveys. Rovco offer the ability to create 3D images from surveys, this project specifically takes a technical leap and extends the state of the art to produce these 3D maps live and during the operation, rather than through post-processing on shore
  • AutoMinder – autonomous marine navigation in denied environments led by Sonardyne. This project develops a variety of new positioning technologies that will provide unmanned/autonomous underwater vehicles with enhanced levels of independence

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