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Autonomous Australian Navy Patrol Boat Concept Advances With Austal’s Sentinel Test Completion

Autonomous Australian Navy Patrol Boat Concept Advances With Austal's Sentinel Test Completion

Australia-based global shipbuilder Austal has announced the completion of seaworthiness tests of a remotely and autonomously operated vessel in collaboration with the Royal Australian Navy’s Warfare Innovation Navy branch. Other partners in the project, funded by the Australian government, include Greenroom Robotics and Trusted Autonomous Systems.

The project, dubbed the Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial, utilized a decommissioned RAN vessel, HMAS Maitland, which was renamed Sentinel. According to Austal, besides its proof-of-concept goal, PBAT also probed the legal requirements of operating an autonomous vessel.

Vessel adjustments to enable remote and autonomous testing included navigation and communication modifications, as well as installation of sensors and computer units. Austal conducted PBAT using Greenroom Robotics’ Advanced Maritime Autonomy software for Sentinel’s navigation along the Western Australian coast from March to April.

Aboard the Sentinel during the tests, which included endurance trials, was a small team of observers and International Maritime Services crew to ensure rapid response on any unexpected deviation or necessary manual intervention.

In November, Austal and Canberra signed a heads of agreement that grooms the company as the government’s strategic shipbuilder in Henderson, West Australia. The HoA could lead to Austal and its partner Birdon to build 18 new landing craft for the Australian Army. According to Austal, it is already building two Evolved Cape-class patrol boats worth about $104 million for the RAN.

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