Rachel Horne, Assurance of Autonomy Activity Lead, Trusted Autonomous Systems
TAS ran the TAS Maritime Showcase Demonstration in Townsville, Queensland on 28 September 2022. With nine autonomous and remotely operated vessels involved (four live and five static), this event was the largest commercial demonstration of autonomous technology in the maritime domain to date.
The event successfully demonstrated how the TAS COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework could be used to inform live trials of autonomous and remotely operated vessels. The event also showcased Australian autonomous vessel operators and the capabilities available at ReefWorks. The event was attended by approximately 65 people from across government, defence, industry, and academia.
An Event Report has been prepared, which describes the event, provides background information on how the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework informed the planning and execution of scenarios, and sets out key findings and reflections. This Event Report will be used to inform future demonstration events and assurance activities for autonomous and remotely operated vessels in Australia.
TAS Maritime Showcase Demonstration Report
The key finding from the TAS Maritime Showcase Demonstration were:
- When designing assurance activities, it is critical to consider the specific characteristics and capabilities of each vessel. There is a vast difference in operational capability and needs between different types of vessels, and generic scenarios are unlikely to work for diverse groups.
- Translating intent is very easy for a remotely operated vessel, where the demo organiser can explain verbally and through pointing at environmental characteristics etc. their intent to an operator, who then operates the vessel accordingly. However, for vessels using autonomous operating systems, the demo organiser and operator need a strong understanding of how the system works, to ensure scenarios can be designed appropriately for the system, and to ensure the right distances and prompts are used.
- Building in wet run throughs with all parties and environmental requirements present is critical to success. Building a shared understanding of what success looks like, and ensuring scenarios are realistic and appropriate, and all parties understand exactly how they will work and what is expected of them, is critical, and it also helps to build trust in the team.
- Ensuring the requisite internet connections and associated infrastructure are available to support command and control and communications forms a critical part of live trials, and enlisting expert support is key to success.
- The regulatory requirements for operating vessels are complex and applications to the regulator can take many months to be processed. Start the process early and continue to follow up regularly. Inviting representatives from regulators is also highly recommended to build familiarity with the technology and comfort with the activities being undertaken.
- The TAS Demonstration Canvas was important for prompting a range of preparations and activities that ensured observers were well-catered for and understood the activities they were observing.
- There is generally a low level of awareness and understanding regarding the use of autonomous technology in the Australian maritime domain, and demonstrations play an important role in spreading awareness and gradually building trust in this technology.
Overall the TAS Maritime Showcase Demonstration was a success, with four live vessels participating in a range of scenarios testing their capabilities relevant to COLREGs, and observers gaining a stronger understanding of the technology and how live assurance against COLREGs requirements can be conducted. The key findings, reflections, and feedback identified will help to shape future activities and events planned by TAS and AIMS.
TAS would like to thank all participants in this event, including the teams from:
- ReefWorks at the Australian Institute for Marine Science
- Downer Group
- Unique Group
- James Cook University
- BTB Marine
- AMC Search
- L3 Harris
- TAS COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework
- Australian Code of Practice for Autonomous and Remotely Operated Vessels
- TAS Demonstration Canvas (Annex 1)
- IMO Interim Guidelines for MASS Trials (MSC.1/Circ.1604 14 Jun 2019)
- AIMS Media Release: Uncrewed boats put to test in Australia
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