NSW-based BlueZone Group and its industry partners have been awarded an Australian Defence Innovation Hub grant to develop a sovereign anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability to support the Royal Australian Navy’s integrated undersea surveillance system.
Under the Phase 3 contract, BlueZone Group, Sonartech Atlas and Acacia Systems will prototype an Australian-developed sonar and combat data processing system installed in a Wave Glider unmanned surface vehicle (USV) that will operate as a peer capability alongside existing traditional platforms. Wave Glider is a product of Boeing’s Liquid Robotics subsidiary.
Elizabeth Karpiel, chief executive of BlueZone Group, said, “The program builds on the success of our earlier exploratory work and will apply innovative integration of sonar processors and automated tracking technologies with leading-edge ASW sensors and the latest version of Liquid Robotics’ Wave Glider.”
The system will comprise a Wave Glider equipped with:
- KraitArray thin line towed array sonar for detection of acoustic data;
- Onboard processing of the data which can be classified and localised using Sonartech Atlas technology; and
- Tracking information produced by Acacia Systems algorithms that can be communicated from the USV and contribute to the overall ASW situation awareness.
“Using an agile technology development process, BlueZone Group will integrate existing technologies with novel payloads from indigenous SMEs to provide a technology advantage to the ADF,” said Darren Burrowes, chief technology officer, BlueZone Group.
Wave Gliders can stay at sea for months at a time, continuously collecting and communicating real-time data while simultaneously supporting a variety of sensor payloads.
“Wave Gliders were selected as the USV development platform based on its proven endurance, innovation and multi-purpose capabilities,” said Graham Hine, CEO of Liquid Robotics.
BlueZone Group recently hosted NSW senator Hollie Hughes for the company’s Unmanned Maritime Systems Support Centre.
"The addition of the Unmanned Maritime Systems Support Centre (UMSSC) will only strengthen this already impressive operation and allow it to continue to service a range of unmanned underwater and unmanned surface vehicles for our Army and Navy – while further developing new technology for the Wave Glider,” Senator Hughes said.
Since 2000, BlueZone has provided a truly sovereign defence industrial base for the support of unmanned underwater vehicles and unmanned surface vehicles operated by Navy and Army.
The aims of the ADF to operationalise unmanned maritime systems can be supported by industry partners like BlueZone with more than 20 years’ experience in providing support for a range of existing Navy and Army robotic systems.
The initiatives outlined in the new Defence Strategic Update 2020 will assist companies like BlueZone Group to innovate and generate new capability solutions for the ADF.
For example, under the contract, BlueZone and SME partners (Sonartech Atlas and Acacia Systems) will deliver a highly automated and autonomous system that will contribute to the ADF’s integrated undersea surveillance system.
“It’s incredible to think that this autonomous waveboard powered by waves, solar energy and batteries and fitted with superior technology can be sent to sea for up to 18 months – detecting friendly and unfriendly submarines,” Senator Hughes said.
Karpiel said BlueZone had been very pleased to provide long-term support to the ADF.
“Our experience and track record are testament to the capability of our people and our strength and stability for more than two decades,” said Karpiel.
“BlueZone provides leading-edge jobs in maritime robotics and unmanned systems for engineers, technicians and support staff from locations in Newcastle, NSW, and Bibra Lake, WA.”
“Our east and west coast locations are ideal for servicing Navy support requirements on both sides of the country.”
Defence has a clear strategy for the future use of robotic and autonomous systems. BlueZone will continue to provide products and support to help achieve the Defence strategy.
The prototype will automate a range of ASW operations including deployment of wide area surveillance systems, sonar processing, and tactical track management and reporting procedures, with final trials to be completed in early 2022.
BlueZone Group is a small to medium enterprise with approximately 40 staff operating from offices and fully-equipped workshops in Newcastle and Perth. They are an experienced and capable Defence SME with 20 years’ experience in support of unmanned systems used for applications including mine countermeasures, hydrographic survey and Army intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance.
Sonartech Atlas is an Australian SME, specialising in high end underwater acoustic systems for submarine, surface ship, unmanned maritime systems and aircraft applications.
Operating in Australia since 1987, Sonartech supports a wide range of domestic and international military customers. Acacia Systems has supported the Australian Defence Force since 1992, and is a leading Australian defence software and systems engineering company engaged primarily in developing advanced mission management systems and tactical support applications.
Liquid Robotics designs and manufactures the Wave Glider, the first wave and solar-powered unmanned ocean robot. With its partners, it addresses many of the planet’s greatest challenges, by transforming how to assess, monitor, and protect the ocean.