Based around Portsmouth, Southampton and the South East of the Isle of Wight, ASV Global along with BAE Systems, Blue Bear Systems Research (Blue Bear), Marine Electronic Systems (MES), SeeByte and the University of Southampton, will work together to provide the service’s infrastructure, with other organizations set to join later this year.

This comes after the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) awarded BAE Systems a grant of £457,000 to design and deliver the UK’s first dedicated autonomous systems testing service. Together the Solent LEP and partner organizations are investing £1.5 million in this project, the first of its kind in the UK.

ASV Global will be providing a 13-meter catamaran vessel which can be optionally unmanned. This vessel will not only work as an Autonomous Surface Vessel (ASV) but will also have the ability to act as a base station for systems testing. The catamaran will feature a long wheel-house which will enable users to come and easily set up their systems in order to receive and view real-time data. The vessel will also feature accommodation in order to operate over 24 hours or longer.

BAE Systems’ Pacific Class 950 Unmanned Rigid Inflatable Boat which ASV Global converted to an optionally unmanned vessel will also be available for use as part of the testing facility.

The new service will be ready for use later this year and customers will be able to conduct trials and test systems such as unmanned boats, air vehicles and autonomous sensors in a safe, controlled and realistic environment in the Solent. Backed by a comprehensive safety case, the service will make use of a secure maritime communications network and a mobile command and control center, featuring the same technology BAE Systems provides to UK Royal Navy platforms.

The new service was announced during a two-day launch event at the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney, Portsmouth, attended by more than 100 guests from autonomous systems providers, local businesses, academia, the Armed Forces and other interested parties.

Solent LEP Maritime Chairman Ian Millen said: “The Solent is the heart of the UK’s Marine and Maritime sector and the assets we possess enable the region, its businesses and the UK economy to compete globally. From the Port of Southampton, the most productive port in Europe, to Portsmouth Naval Base, HQ of the Royal Navy and soon to be home to the largest aircraft carriers in UK history, the Solent is used to making waves on an international stage. The key to this success has always been founded in innovation and, through our investment to create the UK’s first autonomous systems testing service in the Solent, the LEP will ensure that the area and its businesses, large and small, continue to be a driving force for UK innovation for years to come.”

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