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Austal completes sea trials for Australia's autonomous patrol boat project

Sentinel , the testbed for Australia's Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial project. (Austal)

Australian shipbuilder Austal has completed the sea acceptance trials phase for the country's Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial (PBAT), the company announced on 23 April.

The milestone, which included an endurance trial, was achieved by the project's testbed – a decommissioned Armidale-class patrol boat now known as Sentinel. The vessel was formerly in service with the Royal Australian Navy as HMAS Maitland and retired in 2022.

The PBAT is an Australian government-funded project. Besides Austal Australia, other stakeholders in the project include Fremantle-based engineering company Greenroom Robotics, research centre Trusted Autonomous Systems, and the Royal Australian Navy Warfare Innovation Navy (WIN) Branch.

It seeks to provide a proof-of-concept demonstrator for optionally crewed or autonomous operations.

As part of the trials, Sentinel carried out a series of remote and autonomous navigation events conducted off the Western Australian coastline between March and April, Austal said.

These events were carried out with a software known as Greenroom's Advanced Maritime Autonomy (GAMA) from a Western Australia-based company Greenroom Robotics.

Austral Australia took possession of the decommissioned Maitland in 2022. The vessel was modified to enable remote operations, the company said. These include modifications to the vessel's navigation, communications, bilges, CCTV, and electrical systems.

Sensors and computer units were also added by Greenroom Robotics to inform and host the autonomous control system, GAMA.

Austal Limited CEO Paddy Gregg described the milestone as one that demonstrates the capability of locally developed autonomous systems on a full-size, Australian-made naval vessel.

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