Austal Australia announce Greenroom Robotics has joined the Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial, underway for Trusted Autonomous Systems and the Royal Australian Navy. Greenroom Robotics will integrate their Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) control software into Sentinel (a decommissioned Armidale-class Patrol Boat) that will allow autonomous navigation, remote pilotage and control, mission planning and operations. Read more at Austal news & media.
By Rachel Horne, Trusted Autonomous Systems and Rob Dickie, Frazer-Nash Consultancy (a KBR company)
Trusted Autonomous Systems, funded by the Queensland State Government, has been at the forefront of developing tools and resources to support the autonomous systems ecosystem in navigating regulatory pathways.
Autonomous and remotely operated vessels face unique challenges when it comes to complying with maritime regulations. For instance, they must comply with COLREGs, the “rules of the road” for preventing collisions at sea. However, these rules were introduced in 1972, with the assumption that vessels would have humans on board, keeping a lookout and making decisions.
To address this challenge, TAS and Frazer-Nash Consultancy collaborated to create the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework. This game-changer framework provides clarity and guidance on understanding how COLREGs applies to autonomous and remotely operated vessels. It clearly describes the capabilities necessary to comply with each rule, ensuring consistency and repeatability in decision-making.
You can access the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework via RASGateway.com.au
What does the framework do?
The COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework translates the human-centric terminology used in COLREGs into a language that makes sense for autonomous and remotely operated vessels. The framework:
- Helps vessel designers understand the capabilities that COLREGs require vessels to have.
- Assists operators in comprehending COLREGs requirements and explains how mission planning can mitigate or eliminate complex rules; and
- Enables a regulator to apply a consistent methodology when assessing a vessel’s ability to comply with COLREGs.
The COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework can be used to best effect when there is a specific vessel and mission in mind.
How does the framework work in practice?
Let’s take an example:
COLREGs Rule 5 states, “Vessels shall always maintain a look-out by sight, hearing, and all available and effective means for the circumstances.” Sight and hearing are human-centric senses, and the interpretation of “all available and effective means” is quite subjective.
Here’s where the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework comes into play. It translates this rule into a list of tangible capabilities, such as:
- Detecting the presence of and categorising other vessels using video cameras.
- Detecting light signals and sound signals produced by other vessels, and
- Detecting the presence of other vessels using radar or the global Automatic Identification System.
Identifying these capabilities, which can be present on or offboard the vessel, makes COLREGs relatable to autonomous and remotely operated vessels, providing a practical roadmap to compliance.
How will the framework support the autonomous systems ecosystem?
We know some of the previous capabilities are easier said than done. The framework recognises this by supporting adaptable solutions to compliance, for example by allowing users to:
- Successfully identify the capabilities required by each rule, so that they can check whether a specific autonomous vessel can feasibly demonstrate these during a specific mission, or
- Instead implement mitigation strategies such as remote operator supervision or route alterations to avoid a risk of non-compliance.
The COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework is not a set of mandatory requirements. Instead, it’s a pragmatic toolkit, making COLREGs requirements relatable to autonomous and remotely operated vessels, enabling vessel designers, operators, and regulators to demonstrate and assess compliance, and more broadly navigate the challenges and opportunities of the maritime autonomous system ecosystem.
For more information on the COLREGs, and to access the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework and supplementary digital tools, visit now rasgateway.com/colregs.
An earlier TAS News Post, published in August 2021 provides additional background and contextual information on the project. This is available here – Enabling COLREGs Compliance for Autonomous & Remotely Operated Vessels – Trusted Autonomous Systems (tasdcrc.com.au).
Request for feedback
Trusted Autonomous Systems welcomes feedback on the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework via our email firstname.lastname@example.org. In particular, if you have used the framework, please get in touch, and let us know how it went, what worked and what didn’t, and what recommendations you may have for improvement.
TAS would like to thank all parties who contributed to the development of the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework. This includes in particular Rob Dickie of Frazer Nash Consultancy who led the COLREGs project on TAS’s behalf, together with his team Marceline Overduin and Andrejs Jaudzems. TAS would also like to thank the team at Aginic who created the COLREGs Operator Guidance Tool and COLREGs Explorer Tool published on RASGateway.com.au, including particularly Pietair Keurulainen, Emma Freya, Jasmine Gardner, Dong Zhou, Sommer Deo, Alex Vaskevich, and Vinnie Crema. TAS would also like to thank former and current TAS staff who contributed to the project, including Rachel Horne, Dr Kate Devitt, Dr Tara Roberson, Tom Putland, and Mark Guthrie.
This project received funding support from the Queensland Government through Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS), a Defence Cooperative Research Centre funded through the Commonwealth Next Generation Technologies Fund and the Queensland Government.
Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS) General Manager – Law, Regulation and Assurance and QUT PhD candidate Rachel Horne was last night honoured to be recognised as a finalist in the Research and Development category at the Australian Defence Magazine Women in Defence Awards 2023.
Rachel said she was delighted to be nominated for her work developing regulatory initiatives to support more efficient regulatory pathways for autonomous systems used by Defence and the commercial sector.
“I am passionate about promoting a better understanding of the regulatory framework that supports defence and industry to design, manufacture and operate maritime autonomous systems,” said Rachel.
“If we can implement an adaptive regulatory framework that enables, rather than restricts, then we can better support Australia in delivering innovation and world-leading defence capability.”
As part of her academic research, Rachel identified a lack of technical standards underpinning the regulation of autonomous technology.
“To address this major gap in the technical standards, I led a TAS-funded project to produce the first Australian-centric technical standard for autonomous and remotely operated vessels”.
“I also identified a need for more coordination across the diverse autonomous systems ecosystem, so I organised a national conference in 2022 on the use and regulation of emerging maritime technology”.
“The conference brought together government, defence, industry and academic stakeholders to discuss the issues we face and design solutions to address these challenges”.
“Last year, I also staged the largest commercial demonstration of emerging maritime technology in Australia, held in Townsville, to promote a better understanding of autonomous technology and raise awareness of best practice regulation.”
Rachel believes that one of the benefits of her role at TAS has been the opportunity to work on projects that are led by industry and supported by academic partners.
“This collaborative approach means our projects have a greater chance of converting innovation to capability so we can deliver better solutions faster and build sovereign industry and research capability for Defence”.
“In the future, I would like to continue my work developing regulatory initiatives that support autonomous systems innovation and wider regulatory reform.”
Rachel will present on her work at IndoPacific 2023, including as a panel member at the IndoPacific Sea Power Conference 2023, AAUS Autonomy in the Maritime Domain Conference, and International Maritime Conference.
Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS) are extremely pleased to see our participant company Mission Systems announced as providing ‘large-scale simulated sonar data’ to Exail. TAS have partnered with Mission Systems on several elements of innovative ground, aerial and maritime research. In this example, existing Mission Systems work through the Defence Innovation Hub was accelerated through our SeaWolf program.
While our SeaWolf pilot program has concluded, the research investment continues to pay dividends with Mission Systems contributing to Exail’s SEA 1905 Mine Counter Measures (MCM) bid. SeaWolf success also continues for Cellula Robotics Ltd with ongoing work partnered with BAE Systems on the XLAUV Herne.
Mission Systems Dr David Battle will be speaking at IndoPacific 2023 on the research in addition to many other TAS partners and staff, our CTO Dr Simon Ng and GM Law, Regulation and Assurance Rachel Horne at AAUS Conference: Autonomy in the Maritime Domain.
Exail-Mission Systems – Exail Buys Simulated Sonar Data for Automatic Target Recognition – Naval News
IndoPacific 2023 AAUS Conference – https://indopacificexpo.com.au/program/conference/autonomy-in-the-maritime-domain
Following the success of previous TAS Symposiums we are pleased to announce Wednesday 27 March for the TAS 2024 Symposium in Brisbane (mark the date in your calendars). Final arrangements are underway with the venue and registrations are anticipated to be launched in late-January.
In anticipation of announcing the speaker line-up with launch of registrations, TAS are calling on short abstracts with the general interim theme of ‘disruptive and transformative innovation’. While TAS are Defence focussed, we are interested in more general, translatable innovation success stories.
We are keen to hear about:
- the nature of your innovation, including why it is or could be transformational or disruptive,
- factors critical to its realisation,
- challenges you had to overcome along the way, and
- your ideas for how to foster an environment that can aid in and sustain disruptive innovation in the future.
Please include in response:
- name and brief qualifications of presenter
- presentation title
- abstract of no more than three paragraphs
- desired/forecast duration of presentation, and
- telephone and email contact details.
Please direct abstracts to email@example.com no later than Friday 1 December 2023. TAS will assess the responses and provide advice early in 2024.
BAE Systems and Cellula Robotic Ltd announce development of the Herne XLUUV, furthering technologies developed in TAS-Cellula SeaWolf program.
Following a successful project commenced through TAS-NGTF funding, Consunet are now part of the winning team to provide ADF AIR 6500 Joint Air Battle Management System (JABMS).
TAS have provided a submission to the public consultation on Supporting Responsible AI being conducted by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science and Resources. Preparation of the TAS submission was contributed to by Clare East of East Consulting.
The Discussion Paper released to support the consultation provided an excellent overview of existing and proposed regulatory efforts addressing general AI, distinguished from sector-specific AI. On that basis, our submission focussed on regulation of sector-specific AI applications in use around Australia, specifically autonomous systems in the transport, general commercial and defence industry sectors in the land, air and maritime domains.
At a sector-specific level, our submission highlighted the following key points:
1) AI-enabled autonomous technology is in regular use in the air, maritime and land domains, for government, commercial, research and defence purposes, and is increasingly capable and accessible.
2) Better regulatory approaches and infrastructure are needed to support safe and trusted design, manufacture and use.
3) Implementing a set of overarching regulatory principles will support harmonised, best practice domestic and international regulatory development.
4) Whole-of-government guidance on the implementation of a risk management approach to supporting responsible AI will be needed.
5) Australia should consider adopting targeted initiatives and programmes designed to foster co-design arrangements between government and non-government organisations.
Our submission also provides an overview of some of the regulatory tools and initiatives that TAS has led to bridge the regulatory gap, which are available at RASGateway.com.au. These were highlighted as useful examples of what can be done at a sector-specific level to make incremental but important advancements.
TAS looks forward to seeing the outcomes of the public consultation released in due course.
For more information on our projects you can reach out us via firstname.lastname@example.org.