DSEI 2019

Autonomous surface craft [DSEI19D3]

12 September 2019

The UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) (Stand N3-474) has taken delivery at DSEI of a brand-new 13m Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed from ASV, a subsidiary of L3Harris Technologies (Stands S7-310/ D28).

Known as MAST 13, the autonomous surface craft will be used to support experimentation and demonstration of new technologies and techniques applicable to maritime autonomous systems. The vehicle's launch was undertaken on 11 September alongside Victoria Dock, where MAST 13 is participating in unmanned surveillance and force protection demonstrations.

Designed, built and commissioned by ASV at Portchester on the south coast of the UK, MAST 13 is an all-aluminium, high-speed craft specifically designed to support research and experimentation.

Powered by twin Cummins 550bhp diesel engines, driving Hamilton 292 waterjets, the vessel is capable of speeds up to 45kt.

MAST 13 uses L3Harris' proprietary ASView autonomous control system, together with advanced algorithms developed by the company under Dstl funding. The programme forms part of tranche 2 of Dstl's Advanced Autonomy project, which covers 26 different work packages intended to investigate new operational concepts and innovative technologies for the Royal Navy.

''The development of MAST 13 reflects the increased use of unmanned systems in the military domain,'' said Alasdair Gilchrist, Dstl's above water systems programme manager. ''In pushing the development of advanced maritime autonomy, this vehicle will act as a test platform to support new concepts for the Royal Navy, allowing them to exploit unmanned systems and maintain a technology advantage over potential adversaries.''

He added: ''As the programme continues, we welcome collaboration with other organisations to test new algorithms, sensors, payloads and novel concepts. We encourage any such organisations to get in touch.''

The first MAST testbed − developed by L3Harris and Dstl using an existing high-speed Bladerunner power boat − was used to support trials and research activities under Tranche 1 of Dstl's Advanced Autonomy programme. It also participated in the Royal Navy's Unmanned Warrior 2016 experiment in October 2016. An interim follow-on, known as MAST 9, was developed by L3Harris for the Autonomous Warrior 18 exercise undertaken in Jervis Bay, Australia, in late 2018. Accumulating more than 80 hours of sea time over a two-week period, MAST 9 successfully executed seven different task types comprising loiter, shadow, interdict, survey, patrol, target tracking, and inspection.

MAST 9, which is being retained by Dstl alongside MAST 13, is currently in Portugal for NATO Exercise REPMUS, where it is operating autonomously, beyond line-of-sight, to carry out reconnaissance, interdiction and patrol tasks.

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