An Australian Maritime Regulatory Sandbox

Rachel Horne, General Manager – Law, Regulation and Assurance, Trusted Autonomous Systems


Testing autonomous and remotely operated vessels can be challenging, particularly when it comes to identifying and navigating regulatory pathways. For designers and manufacturers who are not maritime-natives, or are working with iteratively designed vessels or groups of vessels, the process can be particularly confusing and lengthy.

To facilitate more efficient test and evaluation, and to support the gathering of data to support future regulatory development, Trusted Autonomous Systems worked with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and AMC Search to advocate for the establishment of an Australian Maritime Regulatory Sandbox.

This week AIMS announced their success in obtaining an approval enabling permit-free testing and evaluation of vessels up to 12m in length, travelling up to 20 knots within the test range.


ReefWorks Project Director Melanie Olsen said the status removed a time- consuming hurdle and uncertainty for developers and helped clear the path to development for Australia’s fledgling autonomous marine technology sector. 

“For the first time in Australia there is a place where individual developers can go without having to first secure a permit,” she said. 

“It eliminates a significant amount of red tape as well as the expensive possibility of not securing a permit in time for a planned trial. 

“It will also allow ReefWorks to share the lessons we learn with regulators to help reduce risk and drive legislative changes.”[i]



(C) AIMS Jo Hurford


While the Australian Maritime Safety Authority now has established processes in place for autonomous and remotely operated vessels, with many success stories in terms of quick turnarounds on applications, initiatives like the Australian Maritime Regulatory Sandbox remain critical to facilitate innovation in Australian industry. Increasing the efficiency of regulatory pathways by removing hurdles, in a way that does not jeopardise safe operations, benefits all stakeholders involved. This includes designers and manufacturers seeking to conduct rapid and iterative trials on one hand, and AMSA staff who must assess all unique applications on the other hand.

To learn more about Regulatory Sandboxes, and how they are used in other industries, please read the ‘Report Excerpt: Regulatory Sandboxes’ available below.

Report Excerpt: Regulatory Sandboxes


To find out more about the AIMS ReefWorks facility and see some autonomous and remotely operated vessels in action, take a look at this video from the Trusted Autonomous Systems Maritime Showcase 2022.

Trusted Autonomous Systems will continue to work to support this initiative and to bring other initiatives forward to support the Australian autonomous systems ecosystem.


If you would like to contact us to offer feedback or suggestions, or request more information on our projects, please email us at


Detect and Avoid flight trials at the Queensland Flight Test Range

By Tara Roberson, Trust Activities Coordinator


Trusted Autonomous Systems, Revolution Aerospace, and QinetiQ conducted a series of live flight trials at the Queensland Flight Test Range in Cloncurry during December 2022.

The flight trials showcased a Detect and Avoid (DAA) system developed by Queensland SME Revolution Aerospace and demonstrated how crewed aircraft can be detected by a DAA system – allowing remotely piloted aircraft to manoeuvre to a safe position.

The trials were developed as part of a Trusted Autonomous Systems initiative which will produce a DAA guideline – a suite of documents that will provide a critical stepping stone to enable Remotely Piloted Autonomous Systems (RPAS) developers to design and build DAA systems with a regulatory-aligned safety assurance process.

The collaboration aims to support acceleration of Beyond Visual Line of Sight flight for RPAS in Australia.

Aerial photo of the Queensland Flight Test Range, taken by Cloncurry Mustering Company.


Why was this important?

Australia was the first country in the world to regulate drones and remains on the forefront of the future of drone regulation.

With applications for RPAS continuing to emerge, our airspace will become busier. Detect and Avoid systems will be a vital part of how we maintain and enhance safety for everyone involved.

The December trial aimed to test a Detect and Avoid system – which provides an equivalent capability for RPAS – developed by Revolution Aerospace as part of the TAS Detect and Avoid guideline project.

Illustration of a drone detecting a crewed plane through a Detect and Avoid system. Visual created for TAS Ethics of RAS-AI video series


What happened at the flight trials?

At the Queensland Flight Test Range, Revolution Aerospace and QinetiQ worked with local aviation companies Cloncurry Mustering Company (CMC) and Savannah Aviation to conduct real-time activities.

They conducted manoeuvres with RPAS and crewed aircraft – including head-to-head (crewed aircraft approaching the system from the front) and side-on (crewed aircraft approaching the system from the side) – to test Revolution Aerospace’s Detect and Avoid system. The Queensland Flight Test Range provided the test and evaluation space for the trials to be conducted in a safe and controlled manner.

Encounters were largely successful in demonstrating the capability of the system and procedures. A demonstration day at the conclusion of the trials showed the capabilities of the system to delegates from the Queensland Government, Defence Aviation Safety Authority (DASA), and Cloncurry Shire Council.


Assurance of Autonomy Activity

This work forms part of Trusted Autonomous Systems’ Assurance of Autonomy Activity. Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS) is working to support the growing Australian autonomous systems ecosystem by identifying and addressing key hurdles in the assurance and accreditation frameworks for autonomous systems and connecting stakeholders to broaden understanding of issues and effect meaningful change.

The TAS Assurance Activity provides expertise to regulators, government, and Defence and builds bespoke assurance and accreditation approaches for the Australian operational context to enable the integration of autonomous systems. These bespoke approaches aim to help industry access higher risk operational areas and achieve increase operational flexibility while maintaining safe performance and meeting regulatory requirements.

This work 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.

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