On Tuesday 29 November, teams from Thales Australia, Defence Science Technology (DST) Group, Flinders University, University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney, Western Sydney University (WSU) and Australian SME’s Mission Systems and Ineni Realtime descended on Christies Beach in Adelaide to demonstrate capabilities of the ‘Mine Counter Measures in a Day’ Project.
‘Mine Counter-Measures (MCM) in a Day’ is a Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS) funded Research and Development project that aims to enhance detection and clearance of underwater mines close to shore; while simultaneously improving safety for Navy personnel.
The project will design, develop, test and evaluate various teams of micro Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) swarms and Autonomous Surface/Subsurface Vessels (ASVs) to provide an autonomous mine clearance capability that operates in the amphibious zone close to shore.
The amphibious zone, also termed ‘the littoral environment,’ is notoriously complex to navigate when searching for underwater mines. The system must overcome tides, waves and currents and be equipped to work in a low visibility and low communications environment. The MCM In a Day project, will eventually seek to supplement current practices, that utilise the expertise of Navy Clearance Divers in exploratory Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA) of the area.
At the demonstration, the team showcased the developing technologies live at Christies Beach. Attendees arrived to a trial site setup on the beach with the seabed Crawler (Flinders University), Seeker AUV (USYD) & Ballbot (Mission Systems) deployed in the water. The demonstration ended with the Crawler and surface buoy being recovered from the beach, providing the opportunity to view the capabilities up close. The team discussed project progress and future vision while viewing the live data from the deployed Seeker that feeds into the Data Manager (Thales) and displayed via bespoke Human Machine Interface (Ineni & WSU) to a range of stakeholders including representatives from Defence SA, Navy DG-Littoral, TAS-DCRC and partner organisations.
John Best, Thales Australia’s Chief Technical Officer, was present at the demonstration, and noted the step-change this capability will provide to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
‘This project will utilise technology to transform high risk, and labour-intensive activities and accelerate amphibious zone mine clearance. By reducing the time it takes to clear a landing zone, while also gathering and analysing mission critical environmental data, personnel safety will be enhanced as will the gathering of operational intelligence.’
Richard Price, Defence SA Chief Executive, said the project was a great example of the benefits that collaboration brings.
“Collaboration is vital for innovation and the development of this cutting-edge defence technology is a great example of what can be achieved when universities and industry work closely with Defence to co-design solutions to increasingly complex challenges.
“South Australia has a long history of success in defence research and development and this latest demonstration showcases our strength as a critical testbed for defence technologies.”
This project is a true reflection of collaboration between defence, academia and industry as well as a demonstration of sovereign capability. The majority of the equipment has been developed in country, or brought in on specification and then modified to support the unique Australian conditions. There is total sovereign control over all software and hardware elements of the project.
The demonstration at Christies Beach marks an important milestone for the 3.5 year project, which is in its 2nd year, with further development and demonstration work to continue during 2023 until project completion early 2024.
This research received funding from the Australian Government through Trusted Autonomous Systems, a Defence Cooperative Research Centre funded through the Next Generation Technologies Fund.