Page 29 - Australian Defence Magazine August 2018
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us systems
The Royal Australian Navy has been active in the trusted autonomous systems space for more than 30 years and today it operates a mixed fleet of underwater vehicles – unmanned and autonomous – for mine countermeasures (MCM) and maritime rapid environmental assessment (REA) tasks.
Recovery a Remote Environmental Monitoring Unit System (REMUS) Autonomous Undersea Vehicle (AUV) used in shallow water mine countermeasures (MCM) and hydrographic reconnaissance.
UNMANNED and Autonomous vehicles are intended to enhance maritime capabil- ity without completely replacing human beings and there has been something of a quiet revolution over the last few years in the tasks they are able to perform.
In particular, the use of unmanned or autonomous underwater vehicles for the MCM and REA roles are the result of ex- tensive trials undertaken in Australia and around the world and represent a break- through in the use of such systems, which have up until recently been used for more traditional tasks, such as intelligence, sur- veillance and reconnaissance (ISR).
Looking towards the near future, there will be an unmanned and autonomous component to all of the platforms being ac- quired through the Government’s continu- ous naval strategy and Navy, together with DST Group, is in the vanguard of research, development and operational testing of a range of new technologies which have the potential to change the way maritime op- erations are conducted. With this in mind, both the new Hunter class frigates and Off- shore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) have dedicated spaces to accommodate such systems.
One of the major events in this regard will be Autonomous Warrior 2018, a ‘Five Eyes’ activity to be held in Jervis Bay in November and which combine trials with an industry demonstration and an exercise focussed on littoral operations.
Unlike some of Australia’s allies, the terms unmanned and autonomous mean different things. In the Navy context, ‘un- manned’ (or ‘uninhabited’ in some aviation circles) is a system which is always under
the full control of a human operator. Ex- amples of this include an unmanned aerial system (UAS) such as Insitu ScanEagle or Schiebel Camcopter, currently operated by the Navy Unmanned Aerial Systems Unit (NUASU), or an unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) controlled by an operator on the surface via a cable.
Autonomous vehicles, in the Navy con- text at least, can be pre-programmed to car- ry out a series of tasks and are therefore not always in contact with a human controller.
Current unmanned
autonomous capability
With regard to underwater vehicles, the two major uses for unmanned or autono- mous vehicles are in the aforementioned MCM and REA spaces. For the former role the current platform is the Saab Double Eagle Mk.II Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), which is used aboard Navy’s Huon class Mine Hunter Coastal (MHC) vessels.
According to Commander Paul Horn- sby, Navy’s deputy director for Mine War- fare, Clearance Diving and Special Op- erations Capability, the Double Eagle is a robust platform ideally suited to Austra- lian conditions.
“This was a lesson we learned some decades ago. While Australia might look like a para- dise on the surface we have very strong cur- rents, unlike the Mediterranean, the North Sea or the North Arabian Gulf,” CMDR Hornsby explained to ADM. “In the world of unmanned underwater systems, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere.”
While the Double Eagle has performed well, it is likely being replaced by a new | August 2018 | 29

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