Licensed by Dstl in 2016, ASView is an Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV) control system, developed and optimized specifically for autonomous and remote control of unmanned vehicles and the conversion of manned vessels for unmanned use. Its application primarily is to remove the need for humans in potentially hostile marine environments.

01.

Overview

  • MoD signs a licence agreement with ASV Global in 2016 allowing for the use of its Advanced Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) Capability technology.

02.

Applications

  • Defence, aviation, maritime, military.

03.

Impact

  • Autonomous navigation means armed forces personnel are kept out of hostile environments – therefore protecting them from harm

Working with Ploughshare Innovations helped significantly because they provided considerable experience and expertise, and supported both parties through the process.

Dstl Platform Systems Division Defensive Surface Warfare, Ian Campbell

 

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The Story

MAST 13 1

Autonomous systems are seen as one of the future technologies have huge significance in the world’s future, yet autonomy in maritime surface vehicles had been lagging behind that in ground or air domains. Ian Campbell had been working at Dstl on marine autonomy since the 1990’s and he, and his team at Dstl, set out to solve the problem.

The team would link up the stakeholders/potential user community, with the technologists and get them working collaboratively together to exploit the technology.

First, Ian needed to engage with SMEs to understand what barriers or challenges there may be within this undertaking.

These initially included whether to create a platform on which to incorporate a functioning algorithm for the technology or to develop a baseline autonomous system that would act as a testbed for wider UK PLC.

The team began working with ASV in 2006, an SME at the time, [FS2] to build an unmanned surface vehicle system that was able to drive itself from point to point. Ian had worked with ASV previously on target and weapons systems. This collaboration resulted in a baseline capability of intelligent standalone autonomous systems, which were able to sense surroundings to avoid collisions.

ASV consequently became a multinational company, and were bought by L3Harris, a global aerospace and defence technology innovator in 2018.

The original purpose of the technology was to gain informed analysis about targets and to be able to test weapons properly under safe and controlled conditions.

Ploughshare saw these autonomous systems and the work that Ian’s team were doing with ASV as something which could have commercial potential and be exploited. The team owned the Intellectual Property and were eventually able to license the technology with Ploughshare, yet because this wasn’t a government specific need area, it made sense for DSTL to own the IP.

ASV could see the benefit of the core software which Ian’s team had developed – the ability for a system to drive a boat around by itself in a safe manner, and licensed it.

From the outset Ian was focusing on how to deliver technology, rather than how that could be exploited in years down the line. “We’ve had to flex and adjust as we move forward. We weren’t as aligned to Ploughshare’s view for the technology at the beginning than we could’ve been.”

“On reflection, thinking beyond the technology and holistic requirements rather than just the tech requirements would have helped overcome certain challenges,” Ian says, “looking back to the start at the contract the team made with ASV for the project, the team weren’t looking at exploitation and IP management, so working with Ploughshare helped significantly because Ploughshare asked all the right questions to get the ball rolling”.

In the early 1990s Ian Campbell [https://www.linkedin.com/in/ian-campbell-753571/]  joined DSTL as an analyst in the above water domain in computer simulation modelling, going on to work in the amphibious domain and then after that, the special forces, doing a tour in Bahrain doing operational analysis for the Navy.

Whilst working in air domain, he began working on maritime autonomy, and in 2006, started in surface warfare at DSTL, the role is remains in today.

MAST Autonomous Warrior 18 [Credit Dstl]

The Technology

Using the ASView Control System software, vehicles can be controlled manually or to follow pre-programmed routes that can be updated at any point through an easy-to-use PC based graphical user interface. Used in more than 100 vehicles at sea, ASV technology has been implemented on undersea warfare systems; unmanned and autonomous surface and underwater vehicles; and airborne systems for maritime patrol and surveillance that enable secure, agile worldwide interoperability. ASView has been used to convert several Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) and other vessels, including survey vessels, powerboats and jet skis for use in various military and commercial applications.

Used primarily by the US Navy, this system keeps personnel safe by keeping them out of hostile environments, potentially saving 100s of lives.

The technology has also recently been selected to be implemented on an autonomous surface ship for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to demonstrate the reliability and feasibility of the system.

Benefits

  • Unmanned operation keeps US Navy personnel out of hostile environments
  • Agile, worldwide interoperability
  • Can be retrofitted onto any type of sea vessel
  • Cost-effective solution
Personell at work on a aircraft carrier

Factfile

Innovation Source: DSTL
Funding: MoD
Applications: autonomous navigation and path planning as well as removal of humans from dangerous and hostile environments
End Users: US Navy

Timeline

1996

Ian joins DSTL via a research programme as an analyst in the above water domain in computer simulation modelling, going on to work in the amphibious domain. Ian was also in the special forces, doing a tour in Bahrain doing operational analysis for the Navy around this time.

2006

Ian and his team begin working with ASV on surface target systems.

2016

Ploughshare becomes involved with the team at DSTL. MoD signs a licence agreement with ASV Global allowing for the use of its Advanced Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) Capability technology.