Autonomous marine technology has been trialled at ReefWorks, a test range operated by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), including autonomous aerial drones and underwater vessels.
The testbed is located at AIMS headquarters, near Townsville and the Great Barrier Reef. The secure test and evaluation facility is open to industry, government and academic representatives.
During the testing, artificial intelligence (AI) robotics and navigation technologies company Advanced Navigation deployed its Hydrus Micro-AUV (autonomous underwater vessel) to map and search the seabed of the inshore test range.
It was then tasked with locate ‘mine-like objects’, which had been planted beforehand.
According to an AIMS statement, the task was successfully completed in less than 30 minutes. A camera with an AI image-processing system was used to compensate for the obscured environment, to ensure imagery of a high enough quality was captured.
The Hydrus drone was tracked using a Subsonus USBL system to enable acoustic positioning and real-time feedback to the operator. Data was then immediately uploaded to enable geo-referencing of the object’s location.
The subsea device was then tested without acoustic positioning and ran on inertial navigation and doppler velocity log, which reportedly showed Hydrus’ ability to autonomously perform near-shore mapping.
An untethered autonomous aerial drone from Queensland company EdgeROV, Raptor sUAV was also deployed during the testing period and tasked with locating a ‘missing person’.
Another solution, this time from James Cook University, was tested, too. The WAM-V autonomous surface vehicle was piloted within a simulated marked channel.
Melanie Olsen, director of the ReefWorks Project, said: “Australia is at the forefront of autonomous marine technology development and there is so much opportunity for this technology to quickly and efficiently undertake tasks that may be unsafe or beyond human capacity.
“Autonomous vehicles are using new sensors and navigation tools to equip them with capabilities to undertake difficult and complex missions.
“It’s exciting to work with developers who are pushing the boundaries and be able to offer them a unique tropical environment for testing.”