Adelaide-based systems engineering firm Shoal Group has been awarded a Commonwealth Grant as part of the Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII). Under the Regulatory Technology round, Shoal, partnered with the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence CRC (TAS), will investigate smart solutions to the challenges faced by commercial and Defence users of autonomous vessels in Australia.
Stakeholders in the Australian autonomous systems domain currently navigate complex, multi-party, domestic regulatory frameworks that are written for crewed systems. The proposed ASSURED-M, or Assurance System Supporting Uncrewed Research, Evaluation and Design – Maritime platform, has the potential to reduce the time and resources required for maritime regulatory compliance, for operators, system designers, and regulators.
The initial feasibility study for the ASSURED-M platform will be led by Shoal Group in partnership with TAS. TAS is an internationally-recognised leader in autonomous and robotic technologies, together with the legal, regulatory and ethical frameworks that underpin their safe and trusted use. The team will also collaborate with experts in maritime safety, including AMC Search, the training and consultancy division of the Australian Maritime College in Launceston, and artificial intelligence specialist Silverpond.
“Our collaboration with industry partners and academia will allow us to explore both the technical and commercial opportunities of developing this platform to streamline compliance for civilian and defence vessels and ultimately reduce risk to our marine environment,” said Kevin Robson, Chief Engineer at Shoal Group.
“The joint team will conduct a feasibility study which will lead to the development of cutting-edge IP, to solve not only today’s problems, but future issues as autonomous systems gain traction worldwide.”
“This platform development is led by Shoal’s Blue Water Innovation, Research and Development Program. Building on a history of success in innovation, with an approach that will virtually test the systems to ensure they are compliant to the safety regulations.”
ASSURED-M will be an agile web-based service for operators of autonomous marine vessels to quickly understand regulatory requirements, be guided through test and evaluation options, and access a Digital Compliance Lab as a test environment.
“Digital tools can revolutionise the way people interact with regulatory information and processes, dramatically improving efficiency and certainty for autonomous vessel operators and other stakeholders,” said Rachel Horne, Assurance of Autonomy Activity Lead at TAS.
“TAS’s Assurance of Autonomy Activity aims to support Australia’s autonomous systems ecosystem and drive business to Queensland’s world-class test ranges, ReefWorks in Townsville and the Queensland UAS Flight Test Range in Cloncurry, by implementing solutions to regulatory barriers including digital tools and upskilling and connecting industry.”
Following the feasibility study, Shoal can apply for the Proof-of-Concept Stage which will see the development of ASSURED-M as a minimum viable product (MVP). This MVP will enable users to quickly identify applicable regulatory requirements for their specific vessel and proposed operation, together with assurance requirements and resources. ASSURED-M will lead to faster uptake of autonomous systems technology and a stronger industry, by reducing cost and uncertainty. It is expected that Defence will be one of the biggest adopters of these systems along with government departments who will be able to monitor twice as much ocean, at half the cost.