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Shoal Group, TAS partner on autonomous maritime vehicles

Shoal Group, TAS partner on autonomous maritime vehicles
Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) in operations at Lake St Clair, Tasmania. The AUV is an L3Harris Iver3 operated by Marine Tech Systems. Credit: Shoal Group.

Shoal Group has confirmed that it is the recipient of a Commonwealth grant under the Business Research and Innovation Initiative, partnering with Trusted Autonomous Systems to research regulatory solutions for autonomous maritime vehicles.

Shoal Group has confirmed that it is the recipient of a Commonwealth grant under the Business Research and Innovation Initiative, partnering with Trusted Autonomous Systems to research regulatory solutions for autonomous maritime vehicles.

Systems engineering firm Shoal Group has announced that it is the recipient of a Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII) grant, partnering with Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS) to research solutions for regulatory issues within commercial and defence applications of autonomous maritime vehicles.

This stage of the research is being conducted under the BRII’s regulatory technology round.

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According to Shoal Group, the partners hope that their Assurance System Supporting Uncrewed Research, Evaluation and Design (ASSURED-M) product will enable companies to overcome complex maritime regulatory hurdles for operators, system designers and regulators.

This will be achieved via the creation of a web-based program to enable operators of autonomous marine vessels to “be guided through test and evaluation options, and access a Digital Compliance Lab as a test environment”.

Under the Shoal-led collaboration, the companies will work alongside maritime safety experts including representatives from AMC Search, a division of the Australian Maritime College as well as AI firm Silverpond.

TAS is expected to draw upon its expertise in autonomous and robotic systems, as well as the legal, regulatory and ethical structures that oversee their use to support the project.

"Our collaboration with industry partners and academia will allow us to explore both the technical and commercial opportunities of developing this platform to streamline compliance for civilian and defence vessels and ultimately reduce risk to our marine environment,” Kevin Robinson, chief engineer at Shoal Group, said.

“The joint team will conduct a feasibility study which will lead to the development of cutting-edge IP, to solve not only today’s problems, but future issues as autonomous systems gain traction worldwide.

“This platform development is led by Shoal’s Blue Water Innovation, Research and Development Program. Building on a history of success in innovation, with an approach that will virtually test the systems to ensure they are compliant to the safety regulations.

“Shoal has expertise in high-power rocket risk hazard analysis for the Australian Space Agency and Defence range safety, ensuring compliance with relevant safety standards and codes. It is built upon many years of experience in civil and Defence Range Safety, using modern tools which allow development of almost any vehicle type, to the required fidelity.”

Rachel Horne, Assurance of Autonomy Activity lead at TAS, explained that the ASSURED-M system will improve efficiency in the autonomous maritime vehicle market.

“Digital tools can revolutionise the way people interact with regulatory information and processes, dramatically improving efficiency and certainty for autonomous vessel operators and other stakeholders,” Horne said.

“TAS’s Assurance of Autonomy Activity aims to support Australia’s autonomous systems ecosystem and drive business to Queensland’s world-class test ranges, ReefWorks in Townsville and the Queensland UAS Flight Test Range in Cloncurry, by implementing solutions to regulatory barriers including digital tools and upskilling and connecting industry.

“TAS is excited to be part of the BRII Challenge and looks forward to working with Shoal to produce a world-class platform that delivers real benefit to Australian industry.”

If successful following this round, Shoal Group will be able to apply for the proof-of-concept stage to demonstrate that ASSURED-M is a minimum viable product.

[Related: PODCAST: Building a stronger sovereign defence industry, with Shoal Group founder Shaun Wilson and Lockheed Martin’s Christopher Hess]

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