17 July 2017
Testing a driverless boat in the Solent. Credit: BAE SystemsThe University of Southampton will play a key role in the development and delivery of the UK’s first service dedicated to the testing of autonomous systems – including unmanned boats, air vehicles and sensors – following a major investment in partner organisation BAE Systems by The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Solent LEP has awarded BAE Systems a grant of £457,000 to design and deliver the service around Portsmouth, Southampton and the south-east of the Isle of Wight.
The service will allow users to conduct trials and test autonomous systems in a safe, controlled and realistic environment in the Solent.
As well as its academic expertise, the University will contribute a command and control van and platforms including underwater, surface and aerial vehicles.
The University will work alongside BAE Systems, ASV Global (ASV), Blue Bear Systems Research (Blue Bear), Marine Electronic Systems (MES) and SeeByte to provide the service’s infrastructure, with others set to join later this year.
Altogether the Solent LEP and partner organisations are investing £1.5 million in the project, set to be available for users later this year.
James Scanlan, Professor of Design within Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton, said: “The autonomous test range represents a huge step forward in being able to bring technology from the laboratory to realistic testing and exploitation.
“This is an exciting and significant development for the University, as we are one of the international leaders in unmanned platform technology.”
The proposed service was announced during a two-day launch event at the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney, Portsmouth.